Will Democrats Still Be Pro the PRO Act If They Take Back Full Control of Congress?

Democrats are dependent on labor — as a source of funding, as a source of boots on the ground, as a source of year-round political education about the importance of liberal/left policies and frames.

But too often, Democrats position themselves not as the party of labor, but as a party where labor, capital, and rentiers (e.g., finance) all get together and negotiate. Democrats thus become arbiters not advocates — and the working class gets screwed. (Sometimes, Democrats directly side against labor, as is the case of those arguing for the privatization of public education).

House Democrats finally kept a promise to labor unions this week by passing the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act.

Here are a few things the bill does:

  • Ensures that workers are free to organize unions without employer interference
  • Helps newly unionized workplaces secure first contract agreements
  • Ensures that unions and employers can bargain to require “fair share” fees to prevent free-riding
  • Safeguards the right to strike; the right to act in solidarity with workers at other companies; the right to pursue justice through collective or class actions; and the right to be properly classified as an employee and collectively bargain with all of the companies that control terms of employment
  • Requires employers to inform workers of their rights and publicly disclose contracts with consultants hired to assist in anti-union campaigns
  • Imposes civil penalties on employers that violate workers’ rights
  • Strengthens and accelerates remedies for workers who suffer retaliation for exercising their rights
  • Allows workers to seek justice in court for violations of their right to organize if the National Labor Relations Board fails to act

The real test will be whether Democrats also pass such sweeping legislation when they next have full control of both houses of Congress and the White House (notably, they did not pass any such pro-unionization bills the last time they did in 2009–2010).

The PRO Act passed 224 to 194, with 219 Democrats and 5 Republicans voting in favor and 187 Republicans (counting Justin Amash as such) and 7 Democrats voting against.

The 5 Republicans were Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), John Katko (NY-24), Chris Smith (NJ-04), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), and Don Young (AK-AL). Fitzpatrick and Katko are the only Republicans in districts won by Hillary Clinton who plan to run for re-election.

The 7 Democrats who voted against it were Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Joe Cunningham (SC-01), Kendra Horn (OK-05), Ben McAdams (UT-04), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Lucy McBath (GA-06), and Kurt Schrader (OR-05).

Several Republican amendments were defeated in the process.

Virginia Foxx (NC-05) offered an amendment to make it more difficult for workers to organize a union by restricting their access to co-workers’ contact information.

It failed 190 to 229. Five Democrats voted for it: Cuellar, Cunningham, Murphy, Schrader, and Abigail Spanberger. (VA-07)

Eight Republicans voted against it: joining Fitzpatrick, Smith, and Van Derw were Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Pete King (NY-02), Tom McClintock (CA-04), David McKinley (WV-01), and Tim Walberg (MI-07).

Phil Roe (TN-01) offered an amendment to override current law allowing an employer to voluntarily recognize a union and to prevent the expansion of “card check” (where workers can organize a union by a majority signing cards authorizing consent, rather than holding a formal election).

It failed 187 to 235.

Again, Democrats Henry Cuellar and Joe Cunningham joined Republicans in voting for it.

Justin Amash (MI-03), Mike Bost (IL-12), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), John Katko (NY-24), Chris Smith (NJ-04), Pete Stauber (MN-08), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), and Don Young (AK-AL) joined Democrats in voting against it.

Rick Allen (GA-12) offered an amendment to strike the provision allowing employers and unions to voluntarily agree to require “fair share” fees from employees in the bargaining unit, notwithstanding state “right to work” laws.

It failed 187 to 232.

Three Democrats — Cuellar, Cunningham, and McAdams — joined Republicans in voting for it.

Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting against it: Mike Bost (IL-12), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Tom Emmer (MN-06), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), David Joyce (OH-14), Pete King (NY-02), David McKinley (WV-01), Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14), Chris Smith (NJ-04), and Pete Stauber (MN-08).

Mark Meadows (NC-11) offered an amendment to the same effect, and the vote broke down the same way (minus differing absences).

Some Republicans were even so anti-labor that they voted against an amendment from Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) to provide rovides whistleblower protections to employees who report violations of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

It passed 404 to 18.

The 18 NO votes were Ralph Abraham (LA-05), Justin Amash (MI-03), Andy Biggs (AZ-05), Mo Brooks (AL-05), Drew Ferguson (GA-03), Russ Fulcher (ID-01), Lance Gooden (TX-05), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Morgan Griffith (VA-09), Andy Harris (MD-01), Jim Jordan (OH-01), John Joyce (PA-13), Roger Marshall (KS-01), Tom Massie (KY-04), John Ratcliffe (TX-04), Chip Roy (TX-21), Michael Waltz (FL-06), and Ted Yoho (FL-03).

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.

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