The PRO Act-- Protecting the Right to Organize Act (HR 842)-- passed the House 225-206 on March 9, five Republicans actually trying to live up to the new GOP propaganda that they've been reborn as a working class party. The 5 were John Katko (NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Don Young (AK), Jeff Van Drew (NJ) and Chris Smith (NJ). One very right-wing anti-worker Democrat, Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX) crossed the aisle in the other direction and, as he does so often, voted with the Republicans.
If it gets through the Senate, which is impossible unless conservative Democrats agree with real Democrats to abolish the filibuster, it would significantly expand workers’ ability to join and organize unions-- and be the first major worker-friendly labor law reform since 1935, when the National Labor Relations Act was passed. The only members of the Senate alive then were vehemently anti-worker rightists Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) who all intend to help McConnell filibuster the bill when Schumer brings it up.
The far right hates the bill because it would effectively abolish the misnamed right-to-work laws Republican-controlled states have been passing; abolish the prohibition on solidarity strikes; and protect gig workers and independent contractors. Preventing it from moving forward-- aside from every single Senate Republican-- are 3 anti-worker Senate Dems: Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Mark Kelly (AZ) and Mark Warner (VA).
You've never heard a good word uttered at DWT about Obama's former Labor Secretary and his appointee as DNC Chair, Tom Perez, a vile corporatist a-hole. As if unions didn't have a tough enough time from Republicans, Perez just joined Venable LLP, a law firm that brags about its lawyers who "regularly counsel and train clients on union avoidance." Yes... Obama's former Secretary of Labor.
Reporting for Jacobin, Andrew Perez and Walker Bragman wrote that Perez "joins a growing number of Obama officials who cashed in their government experience with jobs at union-busting companies. That list includes press secretaries Jay Carney, who became the top flack at Amazon, and Robert Gibbs, who spent years as a top flack for McDonald’s. Obama senior advisor David Plouffe served as policy chief at Uber, while former senior adviser Valerie Jarrett has a board seat at Lyft.
Earlier this year, Perez applauded Biden’s choice for labor secretary, Marty Walsh, tweeting: “America needs a secretary of labor who will fight tirelessly to empower American workers and the labor movement. A union member and champion of workers’ rights, Marty Walsh is the right person for the job.”
Now, months later, Perez is joining a law firm that openly helps Corporate America crush unions.
“Recognizing that the goal of our clients is to prevent and manage their business risks, we regularly counsel and train clients on union avoidance, employee terminations, arbitration, and contract administration and interpretation,” Venable’s website says.
In another area of its website, the firm says that its “lawyers regularly advise and represent clients in connection with matters before the National Labor Relations Board, union negotiations and organizing, labor strikes, picketing, and corporate campaigns.”
One Venable partner’s firm bio brags that he “defeated a labor union bid for recognition as the collective bargaining representative after advising and coordinating the employer’s five-month anti-union campaign.”
Another Venable lawyer’s bio gloats that she secured a “favorable result for [a] corporation undergoing a Department of Labor investigation regarding violations of the Federal Labor Standards Act.”
According to Maryland Matters, Perez’s job at Venable is only part time, and he could still run for governor in Maryland in 2022.
...In 2011, Venable submitted a comment opposing the Obama Labor Department’s proposed “persuader rule,” which was designed to require employers to more thoroughly disclose their spending on anti-union consultants, on behalf of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a front for corporate lobbying groups like the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Venable warned that the Labor Department’s persuader rule would deny “employers the needed legal advice to communicate with employees both before and during periods of union organizing, collective bargaining and strikes.”
The rule was finally implemented in 2016, but it was blocked by a federal district court judge. When Donald Trump took office in 2017, his administration quickly moved to rescind it.
The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a landmark labor bill proposed by Democrats, would codify the 2016 persuader rule.
Jason Call is one of the most pro-labor/pro-worker candidates running for Congress anywhere. Earlier today, he told me that the PRO-Act is the most significant piece of labor supportive legislation to be considered in his lifetime. "For the last forty years," he wrote, "Democrats and Republicans alike have undercut efforts of labor organizers in order to appease their corporate owners. The word that we must keep coming back to is 'solidarity.' Locally, we have seen Washington employers like Boeing skip town for cheaper labor in South Carolina, but the reality is that as the price of labor goes down so does the quality. All workers deserve pay commensurate with their productivity, and right to work states actively negate such ideals. All productivity starts and ends with labor, and we need elected representatives who will not just tepidly sign on to labor legislation, but will actively fight in solidarity with workers for union rights and collective bargaining for fair pay. If Democrats truly want to be the party of the working class (do they, in more than just performative word?) they must demand that holdouts in the Senate fall in line, not only with the PRO Act but with abolishing the filibuster.
"In the decades since the disastrous Taft-Hartley Act," wrote San Fernando Valley congressional candidate Shervin Aazami, "we have seen a systematic assault on labor and worker rights nationwide. From right-to-work laws; to Amazon’s disgusting union-busting tactics; to the anti-gig worker Prop 22 here in California, corporations and corporately-funded politicians have worked hand in glove to silence worker movements demanding higher wages, benefits, and working conditions. The economic consequences have been disastrous, with income inequality in America now at the highest rates since the Gilded Age. In 1965, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 21-to-1. In 2019, it was 320-to-1. The PRO Act is the single most significant overhaul of federal labor protections in a generation. We need the Senate to repeal the racist filibuster and pass the PRO Act now."
Last week, in an OpEd for the Wall Street Journal, AFL-CIO president Richard Tumka wrote that "a recent Morning Consult poll found a staggering 73% of voters-- including 59% of Republicans-- support the right to collectively bargain. The PRO Act will strengthen and expand that right... If anything is stalling the American Jobs Plan, it’s big corporations wanting to pay less in taxes than firefighters and teachers. It’s antiworker senators pretending to care about the deficit after passing a $1.9 trillion tax cut for the ultrawealthy and big corporations four years ago. Scapegoating unions is as stale as trickle-down economics. Let’s not forget President Eisenhower-- a Republican who put us to work building America’s Interstate Highway System-- said: 'Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.' President Biden realizes today what President Eisenhower did a half-century ago: Infrastructure investment and workers’ rights go hand in hand. It’s time to once again build back better with unions."