Biden calls for passage of PRO Act, $15 minimum wage in joint address

President Biden gives his first joint address to Congress

President Biden on Wednesday called for the passage of the PRO Act and for a $15 federal minimum wage during his first address before a joint session of Congress.

The PRO Act, a sweeping pro-union bill, passed the House in March. The legislation, which is the top priority of labor unions, remains stalled in the Senate.

“The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America, that’s what it says. And, it recognizes something I’ve always said. The guys and women on Wall Street, Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions build the middle class,” Biden said.

“And that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act, the PRO Act, and send it to my desk to support the right to unionize. By the way, while you’re thinking about sending things to my desk, let’s raise minimum wage to $15,” he added.

The calls are a nod to laborers and unions, a key demographic that Biden promised to elevate during his 2020 presidential campaign. 

Biden has previously voiced support for the PRO Act, which aims overhaul the nation’s labor laws. 

It would stiffen penalties for employers who violate workers’ rights and strengthen protections for employees against retaliation, among other provisions.

The president’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 was taken out of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal after the Senate parliamentarian said it could not be included as part of a bill passed through budget reconciliation.

“No one, no one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line,” Biden said on Wednesday.

Biden on Monday signed an executive order creating a new White House task force focused on promoting labor unions.

The new task force will be directed to make recommendations within 180 days on how already existing federal policies and programs can be used to help workers organize and collectively bargain in the public and private sectors.

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