House passes pro-union legislation that could impact construction
By Jenny LescohierMarch 10, 2021
House Democrats voted to approve the PRO Act, a bill that would provide protections for workers trying to organize, however a lack of support in the Senate is likely to stall the measure.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which is the labor movement’s single biggest legislative priority in this Congress, passed with a 225-206 vote on Tuesday, with five Republicans joining Democrats in favor of it.
Proponents say the bill would begin to level a playing field they say is unfairly tilted toward big business and management, making union organizing drives and elections unreasonably difficult.
“The PRO Act would protect and empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize a bargain,” Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, told NPR in a recent interview. “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.”
Construction industry officials have voiced strong opposition to the PRO Act, stating it poses a significant threat to the viability of the commercial construction industry, its long history of offering advancement and opportunity to all workers and its ability to rebuild our economy and revive our nation.
Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), for example, stated its position that the measure “makes an unprecedented attempt to fundamentally change dozens of well-established labor laws that would create conditions where unions hold virtually all the leverage in collective bargaining with union firms and in efforts to unionize open-shop firms.
“At the same time, the measure would force employers to divulge private information about their employees, denies workers the right to a secret ballot and would unleash an unprecedented wave of labor unrest.”
The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House when it was introduced in February last year, but it was never taken up by the then-GOP majority Senate. This time, Democrats narrowly control the Senate, but not by enough votes to overcome a filibuster, which means the measure is likely dead once again.
President Biden, who is a close ally of labor, has said he backs the legislation.
“Nearly 60 million Americans would join a union if they get a chance, but too many employers and states prevent them from doing so through anti-union attacks,” Biden said in a statement on Tuesday. “They know that without unions, they can run the table on workers — union and non-union alike.”
Click here for more about the PRO Act and what it means to construction workers.