Updated Mar 9, 2021 - Economy

House passes major labor rights expansion

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) walking in the Capitol on March 9.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) walking in the Capitol on March 9. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The House voted 225-206 Wednesday evening to pass a sweeping labor rights bill aimed at making it easier for workers to unionize and provide them increased collective bargaining rights in workplace disputes.

Driving the news Five Republicans joined Democrats in favor of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.

Yes, but: The bill is likely to stall in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes to pass, but is opposed by many Republican senators.

  • A different version of the bill was also approved by the Democratic-controlled House last year. It was not taken up by the Senate.

Details: The legislation would also diminish so-called “right-to-work” laws in over two dozen states that let employees forgo participating in and paying union dues.

  • The law would ban employers from using its employee's immigration status against them when negotiating their employment.

What they're saying: President Biden endorsed the bill on Tuesday, saying in a statement that it "would dramatically enhance the power of workers to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions."

  • "As America works to recover from the devastating challenges of deadly pandemic, an economic crisis, and reckoning on race that reveals deep disparities, we need to summon a new wave of worker power to create an economy that works for everyone."
  • The other side: The National Retail Federation has called it "the worst bill in Congress."
  • Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said the bill would "undermine worker rights, ensnare employers in unrelated labor disputes, disrupt the economy, and force individual Americans to pay union dues regardless of their wishes."

The big picture: The PRO Act would restrict companies like Uber and Lyft from classifying workers as independent contractors and improve protections for workers' right to strike, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

  • Biden in early March said he supported a union vote by Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama that, if passed, would be the first Amazon warehouse to unionize.
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