The PRO Act will be the ultimate 'litmus test' of Biden’s support for unions: labor rights activist

The PRO Act will be the ultimate 'litmus test' of Biden’s support for unions: labor rights activist

President Joe Biden has been receiving a great deal of praise from progressives, liberals and organized labor for a pro-union video he tweeted on Sunday night, February 28 — one in which he expressed his solidarity with Amazon workers who are voting on whether or not to form a union. But Mindy Isser, a labor rights activist based in Philadelphia, stresses that the ultimate test for how pro-labor Biden is will be what he does for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

In an article published by the democratic socialist website Jacobin on March 1, Isser explains, "After decades of anti-union presidents — or presidents who say one thing about worker power and do the exact opposite — Joe Biden could easily coast along on Sunday's video. It was arguably the most pro-union statement a U.S. president has made in decades…. But here's the real litmus test for Biden: the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act."

Isser goes on to explain why the PRO ACT, which has been championed by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, is important.

"If Biden wants to be regarded as the most pro-union president we've ever seen, he will have to use his political capital to change the rules of the game for U.S. workers — who face one of the most hostile organizing environments in the entire world," Isser writes. "The PRO Act is the most sweeping pro-labor legislation in decades. It would effectively end anti-union 'right-to-work' laws — currently on the books in 28 states — institute financial penalties on employers that retaliate against workers who organize, prohibit employers' 'captive audience' meetings, require employers to bargain a first contract in good faith."

Moreover, Issue adds, the PRO Act would "bar employers from permanently replacing strikers."

"In one fell swoop, the PRO Act would transform the organizing terrain for workers," Isser notes. "It would make it far easier for workers to form unions, without employer interference, and for workers to use their collective power to advance their interests. It would be a game-changer in the United States — and that's why the business community has already come out swinging against it. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warns that it would 'fundamentally alter our nation's system of labor relations.'"

The PRO Act was first introduced by House Democrats in 2019, and the House passed it in 2020 before reintroducing it on February 4. To become law, however, it would need to pass in the U.S. Senate as well and be signed into law by Biden.

"Vice President Kamala Harris also has a role to play; she is the tiebreaker and leads the Senate, and could override the parliamentarian to get the PRO Act passed by reconciliation," Isser observes. "Or Biden could just use his bully pulpit to say that he wants the bill passed no matter what and that the Senate should end the filibuster to do it. It's entirely up to Biden how hard he wants to push this. But if he wants to be seen as 'Joe from Scranton,' or known as the 'most pro-union president (we've) ever seen,' he'll need to build on his statement on Sunday. He'll need to actually fight to pass the PRO Act."

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