The Future of the PRO Act Will Be Decided in Georgia
Two Senate races in Georgia will decide control of the Senate for the next two years
Although the 2020 election brought jubilation to many as President-elect Joe Biden defeated Trump, Democrats did not deliver on their plan to win back the Senate. Although they flipped two seats, one in Colorado and one in Arizona, they also lost a seat in Alabama and failed to win races in North Carolina, Maine, and Iowa. However, there could be a ray of hope for Democrats as two Senate seats are headed to a run-off in January. For union members, these races are likely to decide the future of pro-union legislation like the PRO Act.
The two Senate races in Georgia were undecided on Election Day (and the week after) because no one got above the 50% vote threshold. The first race is between Dr. Raphel Warnock and Senator Kelly Loeffler. They both ran in a “jungle primary” since Loeffler was appointed to fill the Senate seat in December of 2019. The two candidates were the highest vote-getters out of 20 candidates. Warnock is the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. This is the same church that Dr. Martin Luther King served as a co-pastor with his father in the 1960s. Loeffler is a businesswoman who was accused of insider trading when she used a Senate briefing on COVID-19 to dump millions of dollars in stock before the public knew how bad the pandemic would be. She is also a sponsor of the National Right to Work Law.
In the other Senate race, Senator David Perdue failed to reach 50% and will face off against Democrat Jon Ossoff. Perdue, who is also a sponsor of the National Right to Work Law, was elected to the Senate in 2014. Before that, he was an executive who specialized in buying failing businesses and “turning them around” so that investors could reap the rewards. His opponent Jon Ossoff is only 33 but has worked as a congressional staffer and an investigative journalist covering ISIS war crimes.
So why are these Senate seats so important? With Democrats winning the White House, they need just two seats to have a 50-50 split in the Senate. With Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote, Democrats would no longer have to worry about Senator Mitch McConnell holding up their agenda. For union members, this could mean the difference in the future of two important pieces of legislation, the PRO Act and the HEROES Act.
The PRO Act would make a number of pro-union reforms including changing the law to make it easier to organize a union, establish real penalties for employers who violate labor law and repeal right to work. It is unlikely to receive support from any Republicans and Senator McConnell will not give it a floor vote. The PRO Act has previously passed the House and President-elect Biden has expressed his support for it, so the only thing holding it up is a vote in the Senate.
The HEROES Act is another Democratic bill that would help working people, yet it has languished in the Senate. The House passed it back in May to provide needed relief to Americans, small businesses, and governments in states and cities around the country. While some stimulus is likely either late this year or early in 2021, without Democratic control of the Senate, the bill will likely be paired down to a more bare bones deal since McConnell has previously said that he doesn’t want a huge bill that would bailout blue states and cities. This would mean huge layoffs for public employees since some states are projecting losing 20% or more in revenue and other states are projecting deficits in the billions.
For union members, this may the last shot to get the PRO Act and the HEROES Act passed. If Democrats lose even one of the seats, Senator McConnell will be able to hold up President-elect Biden’s agenda for the next two years. Sure, Senator McConnell might allow a bill to go through that strengthens labor law, but you can be assured it won’t have a right to work repeal in it.