On Feb. 6, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protecting the Right to Organize ACT (PROACT).
The PRO ACT would change decades-old labor laws by giving workers more power during disputes, grant hundreds of thousands of workers collective bargaining rights they do not currently have and add penalties for companies that retaliate against workers who help organize workers. It would weaken current right-to-work-for-less laws that allow people to work in union-represented jobs but require them to pay nothing for representation (known in the union world as free riders).
The bill would also allow more workers currently misclassified as independent contractors to be granted the status of employee. This would allow those employees to organize if they opt to and would
put the payroll tax burden back on the employer where it belongs. The bill passed with a vote of 224 to 194, mostly along party lines. It goes without saying that the Republican Party was opposed to giving working people more rights but, having said it I will expand on it.
The Washington Post reports the bill is unlikely to be taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate as Republicans and business groups have argued forcefully against it. The staff of Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee and chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has said that the committee will not consider the bill this session.
Do not let “this session” fool you — the GOP will not consider this bill or any bill that gives power back to working people — not this session, not the next session, nor the session after that.
All working people — not just union members — please pay attention to this. Inaction by the GOP-controlled Senate on this bill will tell you everything you need to know about the GOP when it comes to helping working families. With this being an election year, the GOP will once again campaign on helping working families in order to win over voters, but history shows they seldom do for working people what they promise once elected. They will hang their hats on jobs but, will never say they want these jobs to be living wage jobs with benefits people can raise a family on.
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In previous columns I have listed in detail what the Republican Party at the statehouse in Iowa has ripped away from workers the past few sessions so I will not list them again here. It is time for all working people in this country to take a stand, educate ourselves on the real issues based on facts and hold elected officials accountable for how they vote and how they represent the best interest of their constituents no matter what their party affiliation.
If this offends elected Republican officials I can only say that the proof is in the pudding. It is far past time to do what is right by working families in this country not just your big campaign donors.
Rick Moyle is executive director of the Hawkeye Labor Council, AFL-CIO