March 10 (UPI) — Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed sweeping pro-union legislation to protect workers’ rights to organize and to allow for employers to be punished over wrongful termination.
The bill passed the Democrat-controlled House 225-206 along party lines on Tuesday, said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the bill’s sponsor, who called it “a critical step to secure workers’ right to join a union.”
“The Protecting the Right to Organize Act makes the most significant upgrades to the [National Labor Relations Board] in 85 years by providing new tools to protect workers from intimidation and retaliation, introducing meaningful penalties for companies that violate workers’ rights and allowing workers to hold free, fair and safe union elections,” he said in a statement.
According to the bill, it will support unionization through streamlining access to justice for workers punished for exercising their rights, giving workers the power to override so-called right-to-work laws that prevent unions from collecting dues for those they represent, allowing workers to seek justice in court against employers who interfere with their rights and enhancing workers’ right to support boycotts, strikes and other acts of solidarity.
It also enables the National Labor Relations Board to assess monetary penalties for each violation of a worker being wrongfully fired while closing so-called loopholes that permitted employers to misclassify employees while preventing immigrants from being exploited. Employers will also be prohibited from subjecting their employees to anti-union propaganda and allow workers to vote away from their places of work, preventing employer interference.
President Joe Biden, who has previously voiced support for the bill, urged Congress on Tuesday to send it to his desk so he can sign it into law so “we can summon a new wave of worker power and create an economy that works for everyone.”
“I believe every worker deserves a free and fair choice to join a union — and the PRO Act will bring us closer to that reality,” he tweeted.
He also published a statement on Tuesday, stating rebuilding unions with help deliver “America’s promise in full.”
“The middle class built this country, and unions built the middle class,” he said. “Unions 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.”
A similar bill sponsored by Scott in 2019 passed the house in February of last year by failed to make it out of the then-Republican-controlled Senate. It now faces a split Senate, but will require 10 Republicans to cross the aisle to avoid a filibuster.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has railed against the bill, stating on its website that the PRO Act “would destabilize America’s workplaces and impose a long list of dangerous changes into labor law.”
“The proposal … is a litany of almost every failed idea from the past 30 years of labor policy,” the chamber said. “The PRO Act would undermine workers rights, drag employers into unrelated labor disputes disrupt the economy and force individual Americans to pay union dues regardless of this wishes.”
Nonpartisan think tank the Economic Policy Institute cheered the House’s passing of the PRO Act, stating helps “bring U.S. labor law into the 21st century.”
“The Senate should pass the PRO Act Immediately and ensure that all workers have a voice on the job,” Celine McNicholas, director of government affairs at the EPI and its policy analyst, Margaret Poydock, said in a joint statement.