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Pelosi Buries Historic Labor Bill
to Appease Centrists
the first time in decades, the House of Representatives has a rare
chance to rewrite American labor laws, in ways that would actually help
workers. Among other benefits, a new bill would abolish right-to-work
laws that cripple union organizing, create penalties for employers that
punish workers for organizing, and set out rules to eliminate delays in
negotiating union contracts.
bill, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO), was introduced by
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and has 215 co-sponsors. It passed the House
Committee on Education and Labor in late September. Rep. Pramila
Jayapal, D-Wash., told the Intercept that “it is taking longer than it
should” to pass PRO, “given the number of co-sponsors that we have.
Many other bills have come to the floor with fewer co-sponsors than
why hasn’t Nancy Pelosi brought it to the floor for a vote? And why is
she instead focusing on a trade bill that’s a high priority for Donald
U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is a replacement for the North
American Free Trade Agreement, which removed tariffs and other
restrictions on trade among the three countries, but also caused
significant job losses and led companies to move their operations
Cohen suggests, may be focusing on USMCA instead of PRO because she’s
following the demands of centrist Democrats eager to prove that they
can work with the president. Those moderates believe that passing USMCA
would help protect House Democrats who flipped Republican seats in
2018. It’s an argument also advanced by Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., chair of
the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
week, The Washington Post reported that Jesús
Seade, Mexico’s undersecretary for North America, said the
agreement had a good chance of being finalized this week. That’s also
what Pelosi wants, although Democrats, the Post reports, want “changes
that would ensure enforcement of the agreement in a way that would help
American workers and prevent further outsourcing of U.S. jobs overseas.”
unclear whether any of those changes would satisfy unions, whose
support Democrats still depend on. Richard Trumka, the head of the
AFL-CIO, has pushed the Democrats to hold out for more labor
protections. According to the Post, “his endorsement would be likely to
sway dozens of House Democrats to support the new deal.”
to an earlier Intercept article by Ryan Grim, Rep. Richard Neal,
D-Mass., chair of the Ways and Means Committee, agrees with Bustos, but
goes a step further, advocating what Grim calls “a divide and conquer
strategy,” adding pension reform to the USMCA deal, a decision that
could split union support, and, as Grim puts it, “allow House leaders
to say that labor is divided on the question, so the party might as
well vote yes [on USMCA].”
own reporting suggests that union support for the NAFTA replacement is
far from guaranteed. She writes: “Unions have made clear … that from
their perspective, USMCA lacks real labor enforcement mechanisms, which
could undermine the whole deal, further drag down wages, and eliminate
Mauer, director of government affairs for the Communications Workers of
America, which supports PRO, told the Intercept that “We get it’s hard,
there’s a lot of stuff on people’s plates, and at the same time, this
bill already has a lot of demonstrated support.” CWA members, Maurer
said, would be “very unhappy” if the House failed to make progress on
Aside from the ample
number of co-sponsors, the bill has growing public support for unions.
Organizations like nonprofits and digital media companies are beginning
to form unions. According to a Gallup poll released just before Labor
Day, 64% of Americans support organized labor, a near fifty year high.
/ Editorial Assistant
15 CWAers from 11
different locals across CWA District 7 participated in a CWA STRONG
internal organizing training in Denver, Colo. CWA Local 7050 helped
lead a discussion on building a culture of organizing and mobilizing in
our locals and the led the participants in a mock new employee