What is in the new Protect the Right to Organize Act, approved by the House?
The PRO Act is supported by President Biden and will help workers' unions push for better wages, benefits and working conditions if passed in the Senate.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill which aims to protect workers and labour unions, known as the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.
The bill was passed on Tuesday with a vote of 225-206, which saw five Republicans cross the aisle to support the Democrat-led legislation. The bill has been strongly backed by union leaders who say the legislation will address the unfair labour organisation regulations that represses union organisation and election processes.
Speaking to NPR about the proposal, president of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka said of the bill: "It's a game changer. If you really want to correct inequality in this country - wages and wealth inequality, opportunity and inequality of power - passing the PRO Act is absolutely essential to doing that."
What is in the PRO Act?
The bill is one of the most extensive attempts to overhaul workers' unions regulations in recent memory and contains five distinct provisions.
Firstly, the PRO Act would reverse the ‘right-to-work’ laws that allow workers in over 25 states to opt out of the union in union-represented workplaces. The new legislation would prevent workers from opting out and allow unions to collect dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining and administration that all workers benefit from.
The rules on union elections would be tightened to prevent interference by banning company-sponsored meetings with mandatory attendance. Such meetings are often used by the employer to lobby against unions.
The PRO Act would provide arbitration and mediation facilities to allow fledgling unions to settle conflict in initial negotiations, which often grounds newly-formed unions.
Protections would be put in place to prevent employers discriminating against workers on the basis of immigration status.
A new set of punishments will be introduced to hit companies and executives who violate workers’ rights, with harsher monetary fines for those adjudged liable.
PRO Act unlikely to pass the Senate despite Biden’s approval
Before taking office, President Joe Biden said that he would be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen." In a statement released earlier this week Biden called on the House to pass the PRO Act, which he claimed would “dramatically enhance the power of workers to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.”
However despite the President’s clear support it seems unlikely that the PRO Act will be signed into law due to some tough opposition in the Senate. Unlike the stimulus bill, which passed the Senate with just 50 votes using reconciliation, this legislation will require a 60-vote supermajority to pass the Upper House.
Without ten GOP Senators willing to support the legislation the Republicans will be able to filibuster the proposal out of the Senate. The bill has drawn criticism from a number of major business groups and the United States Chamber of Commerce has also spoken out against the PRO Act.
In a recent statement calling on Congress to throw out the legislation, the Chamber of Commerce warned that it would "destabilize America's workplaces and impose a long list of dangerous changes to labor law."