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Historic labor law reform passes U.S. House of Representatives

AFL-CIO hails ‘generational change’ of PRO Act, urges prompt Senate action


WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 10, 2021) — In a major win for the labor movement and America’s working families, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would overhaul the nation’s labor laws to restore workers’ freedom to organize and join together in unions.

The House approved the PRO Act on a 225-206 vote, largely along party lines. Among Washington’s delegation, Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith and Marilyn Strickland — all co-sponsors of the bill — voted “yes.” Republican Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted “no.”

“This urgent legislation puts power back into the hands of working people,” said Rep. Jayapal (D-Wash., 7th), a lead sponsor of the PRO Act. “Now the Senate must act so workers can finally secure the right to organize and bargain for good wages, fair benefits, and an equal voice on the job.”

The AFL-CIO also hailed Tuesday’s passage of the PRO Act and called for urgent Senate approval.

“This is a historic moment in the struggle for working people’s rights on the job, and it was delivered by a broad coalition that transcends any one issue, party or ideology,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “This fight is about strengthening fundamental civil rights. It’s about making us safer on the job, creating fairer workplaces and building a stronger economy. In the wake of a devastating year for America’s workers, that cause has never been more urgent.” He added:

“Working people have been patient long enough. We aren’t interested in excuses, and we aren’t interested in waiting. The PRO Act is our litmus test. If progress is delayed or denied yet again, the suffering of the past year will only get worse and working people will continue to pay the price of failed leadership.

“But if the Senate steps up to the plate and delivers generational change — the change we voted for — we will emerge from this crisis stronger than before. Everyone deserves the basic protections and dignities that come with a union card. The day the PRO Act is signed into law, tens of millions more working people will finally be free to carry that power in our pockets.”

“I sincerely want to thank Representative Japayal and all of Washington’s Democratic House delegation for their strong support of the PRO Act and Washington’s working families,” said Larry Brown, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “Now it’s the Senate’s turn to step up and help workers regain some power.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who serves as Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is a lead sponsor of the PRO Act in the Senate and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is a co-sponsor.

“When unions are strong, Washington’s working women and men earn higher wages and better benefits and guarantee a safer workplace,” said Rep. Larsen (D-Wash., 2nd). “Standing with working women and men is personal for me. My dad worked as a lineman for Snohomish County PUD and was a longtime member of IBEW Local 77. Labor literally put a shirt on my back and food on my family’s table growing up. I will continue to stand up and give working people a voice in Congress.”

“Strong unions are one of the biggest and time-tested tools to combat economic inequality,” said Rep. Smith (D-Wash., 9th). “I am proud to support the PRO Act, which will streamline the process for workers seeking to organize a union, protect employees from retaliation for collective bargaining, crack down on worker misclassification, and authorize meaningful penalties for companies and executives that violate workers’ rights.”

The most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression, the PRO Act will:

●  Empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain.
●  Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized.
●  End employers’ practice of punishing striking workers by hiring permanent replacements. Speaking up for labor rights is within every worker’s rights — and workers shouldn’t lose our jobs for it.
●  Hold corporations accountable by strengthening the National Labor Relations Board and allowing it to penalize employers who retaliate against working people in support of the union or collective bargaining.
●  Repeal so-called “right to work” laws — divisive and racist laws created during the Jim Crow era — that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces.
●  Create pathways for workers to form unions, without fear, in newer industries like Big Tech.

For a fact sheet on the PRO Act, click here.

For a section-by-section of the PRO Act, click here.

EDITOR’S NOTE — As for Washington’s Republican members of Congress, in case you weren’t on the House floor during Tuesday’s debate on the PRO Act, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) has a message to you:

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!