House Passes Bill That Would Strengthen Unions And Labor Laws
On February 4, 2021, the House of Representatives passed a significant bill aimed at strengthening workers’ abilities to organize. The House passed the bill with a vote of 224 to 194.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, also known as the PRO Act, would amend some of the country’s decades-old labor laws. The PRO Act gives workers more power during disputes at work, adds penalties for companies that retaliate against workers who organize and grants some hundreds of thousands of workers collective-bargaining rights they don’t currently have. It would also weaken the “right-to-work” laws that exist in 27 states which allow employees to forgo participating in and paying dues to unions.
Currently, the National Labor Relations Board has no ability to levy fines when it finds companies have broken the law, like firing a worker for starting a union campaign, for example. However, this bill would give the NLRB the power to fine companies up to $50,000 per violation. It would also award workers’ compensation for the damages they experience when they are retaliated against, not just back pay and reinstatement, as they are currently entitled to.
The PRO Act would also allow more people currently classified as contractors to be given the status of employees for the purposes of union organizing, which could potentially allow workers at companies like Lyft, Uber and DoorDash to organize with unions or among themselves.
Additionally, the bill would also weaken right-to-work laws, which allow employees to be exempt from paying fees to unions that represent them.
Of course, anti-union advocates have argued forcefully against the bill, saying it would hurt employers, violate privacy rights and be a major boon for national unions.
This bill is the latest sign of momentum for the labor movement, and it highlights the growing push to reexamine the country’s decades-old labor laws. With Democrats now in control of the Senate by virtue of Vice President Harris’ constitutional power to cast tie-breaking votes, we are certainly hopeful that this bill will be taken up by and pass the Senate as well.