In Pivotal Move, Sen. Manchin Announces Support For Pro-Union Legislation

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin announced that he’s co-sponsoring labor reform legislation, saying it will “level the playing field” for union workers.

First reported by Politico, the Senator from West Virginia made the announcement that he will support the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, at a virtual National Press Club event on Monday.

“I am pleased to announce that I am co-sponsoring the PRO Act,” Manchin said while noting that “fifty percent of unions fail in their first year of organizing.”

Manchin also said that he is looking “forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this bill through a legislative process.” But the senator will likely find it tough to garner any support from across the aisle. The House version of the bill that passed 225-206 in March, had very little GOP support. Only five Republicans voted in favor of the bill.

The version of the PRO Act that passed in the House would strengthen collective bargaining rights and create penalties for corporations that violate their workers’ rights. It also includes a provision that would let unions override restrictive “right to work” laws that currently exist in more than half of U.S. states, allowing workers to opt out of unions and paying dues. Additionally, the PRO Act would establish protections around union elections, ensuring employees can keep ballots private by submitting them to a ballot box in a neutral location, off company property.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told NPR last month that the House version would be a “game-changer.” But it would need to pass a 60-vote threshold in the Senate to bypass a filibuster.

“The PRO Act would protect and empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize a bargain,” Trumka said. “It’s a game-changer. If you really want to correct inequality in this country—wages and wealth inequality, opportunity and inequality of power—passing the PRO Act is absolutely essential to doing that.”

Biden also backs the legislation. In March, the president released a statement explaining why protection for workers is necessary.

“Nearly 60 million Americans would join a union if they get a chance, but too many employers and states prevent them from doing so through anti-union attacks,” Biden said. “They know that without unions, they can run the table on workers—union and non-union alike.”

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