Biden Encourages Congress to Pass PRO Act
A vote in the House is expected this week
It’s game time for the PRO Act, as the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill sometime this week. The bill also got a big endorsement on Monday when President Joe Biden released a statement in support of the bill and strongly urged Congress to pass it.
While Biden announced his support for the PRO Act during the campaign, this is the first time he has issued a public statement on it as President, although he has been meeting with labor leaders to discuss the bill. In his statement, President Biden said, “The Administration strongly supports House passage of H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021. America was not built by Wall Street. It was built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class. Unions put power in the hands of workers. They give workers a stronger voice to increase wages, improve the quality of jobs and protect job security, protect against racial and all other forms of discrimination and sexual harassment, and protect workers’ health, safety, and benefits in the workplace. Unions lift up workers, both union and non-union.”
The statement went on to say that the policy of the United States Government is to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining. Biden also notes that the PRO Act would allow the NLRB to assess penalties on employers who violate workers' rights during an organizing drive. This was a promise that Biden made during the campaign when he suggested that if he was elected he would look to strengthen penalties to include possible jail time for union-busting.
“The Administration strongly encourages the House to pass H.R. 842, and looks forward to working with the Congress to enact this critical legislation that safeguards workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively,” said Biden. “The PRO Act will strengthen our democracy and advance dignity in the workplace.”
The bill is expected to pass the Democratic-led House with almost all Democrats and a few Republicans supporting it. The bill currently has 212 co-sponsors, 209 of which are Democrats and 3 of which are Republicans. Last month, 100 members of Congress signed a letter asking House leadership to fast-track the bill due to its importance. However, its future is uncertain in the Senate. Currently, there are some Senators on the fence, including Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), Mark Warner (D-VA) and one independent Angus King (I-ME). They would also need to get at least 10 Republicans to support the bill to get through an expected filibuster from Senate Republicans.
The PRO Act is being touted as the most pro-worker piece of legislation in generations, possibly since the 1940s. The bill would do a number of things to help workers including:
- Creating monetary penalties against employers who try to illegally bust unions
- Strengthening protections for workers who are wrongly fired during union organizing campaigns
- Allowing workers to take employers to court when they’ve broken collective bargaining laws
- Making it easier for newly formed unions to secure their first contracts
- Bolstering workers’ rights related to strikes and boycotts
- Overriding anti-union “right to work” laws that have now spread to a majority of states
- Making it harder for companies like Uber to avoid unions by using “independent contractors”
Simply put, the PRO Act would make it easier to organize and easier for workers to get their first contract. For example, if the PRO Act was now law, workers who are organizing at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer Alabama, would not be facing the anti-union attacks that Amazon is throwing at them. According to the Economic Policy Institute, four out of every ten organizing efforts have workers file complaints against their employer over illegal activity and in 33% of elections, those complaints are over workers being illegally fired. The PRO Act would end this practice and level the playing field for workers.
With a vote on the PRO Act coming this week, the AFL-CIO has set up some tools to allow union members to contact their member of Congress and their Senators and ask them to support the PRO Act or say thank you for sponsoring the PRO Act. You can access those tools by clicking here. You can also find out if your legislator is a sponsor of the bill by clicking here.