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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson March 12, 2021

Joe Biden applauds Alabama workers on union vote; House passes PRO Act

During his career in politics, Joe Biden often touted his ties to organized labor. And during the 2020 presidential race, he promised to be a pro-labor president.

"Because Biden knows we need to build back better, he will include in the economic recovery legislation he sends to Congress a series of policies to build worker power to raise wages and secure stronger benefits," his campaign said.

On Feb. 28, Biden made and tweeted a video in which he supported the right of some 6,000 Amazon workers in Bessemer, Ala., to vote on joining a union.

"Today and over the next few days and weeks, workers in Alabama and all across America are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace," Biden said in the video. "This is vitally important — a vitally important choice, as America grapples with the deadly pandemic, the economic crisis and the reckoning on race. What it reveals is the deep disparities that still exist in our country."

Biden added in the video that "there should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda," Biden said. "No supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences."

Less than two weeks later, the House acted on legislation that seeks to enhance leverage for labor unions.

On March 9, the House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act. Among other things the legislation would:

• Expand the definitions of what types of workers can be covered by federal labor standards;

• Empowers unions to encourage participation in "secondary strikes," in which a union decides to strike in sympathy with an existing labor strike;

• Targets "right-to-work" laws in many states by allowing collective bargaining agreements to require all covered employees to pay union dues;

• Prohibits the use of striker replacements and discriminating against workers who go on strike;

• Bans employers from requiring or coercing employees to attend meetings where arguments are made to discourage union membership; and,

• Tightens enforcement penalties by the National Labor Relations Board.

The measure passed with only five Republican votes, and it would need to win the support of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate in order to proceed to a vote. (At least one Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, has expressed support for the workers seeking to organize in Alabama.)

House passage represents a step forward, so we rate this promise In the Works.

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