House passes bill aimed at strengthening unions

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The House passed legislation aimed at strengthening workers’ rights to unionize in a 225-206 party-line vote on Tuesday evening.

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act — introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) — would implement penalties on companies that violate labor law and would tamp down “right-to-work” laws in 27 states by blocking laws that allow employees to not pay union dues.

The bill also looks to change the way workers are classified and includes language aimed at ensuring workers aren’t denied rights due to their immigration status.

Proponents argue it’s a necessary step in ensuring workers aren’t denied workplace protections.

“Labor unions are essential to rebuilding America’s middle class and improving the lives of workers and their families. Unfortunately, over the past 70 years, union membership has dropped to the lowest level since just after the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was first enacted. This decline is not a result of workers’ choices. It is plainly obvious that the NLRA is too weak to defend workers’ rights against intensifying anti-union attacks from wealthy special interests,” Scott said in a statement.

“The Protecting the Right to Organize Act makes the most significant upgrades to the NLRA in 85 years by providing new tools to protect workers from intimidation and retaliation, introducing meaningful penalties for companies that violate workers’ rights, and allowing workers to hold free, fair, and safe union elections.”

The measure received strong pushback from Republicans, who argued it would place unnecessary burdens on businesses and have a detrimental impact on job numbers.

House Education and Labor Committee ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) shot back at Scott’s assertion it would help strengthen the middle class.

“I’ve heard Democrats argue that it’s the unions that built the middle class,” she said ahead of the vote. “No, the unions didn’t build the middle class. Entrepreneurs and individual workers in this country built the middle class — and what this bill does is take away their freedom.”

The legislation faces an uphill battle in the upper chamber, where it would need to garner 60 votes for it to be signed into law. 

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