Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, are in the midst of a drive to organize what would be the first union in the company’s history. courtesy Fibonacci Blue, CC BY 2.0

PRO Act a true test of working class allegiance

President Biden’s first major legislation is the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which he signed last Thursday. The bill is certainly a direly needed aid to many working families and will help pull many out of poverty. However, this bill shouldn’t be seen as a real advancement for working class power in America. Rather, it greases the wheels of our economy and ensures people are well enough to get back to work. It is a boon to owners of companies as much as it is to their employees and shouldn’t be seen as a victory of one over the other.

A much better signifier of allegiance for the new president is his stance on the proposed Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act. He released a statement on March 9 indicating his strong support for the bill. It has already been voted through the House, though it will likely face significant resistance in the Senate. It’s too early to say how adamant Biden truly is in his support of labor, but this is certainly a good start.

The PRO Act itself ensures several incredibly important rights for working Americans. First, it ends all so-called “right to work” laws in the 27 states where they currently exist. These laws are a direct obstacle to union membership and growth. The bill would also reclassify gig economy workers like Uber and Doordash drivers as full employees, meaning they could engage in collective bargaining. Many other provisions are made to prevent unfair treatment of workers and to protect them in the process of organizing.

Passing the legislation would also require an overcoming of the filibuster. Finding 10 Republicans to join in support — in addition to ensuring universal Democrat support — would be quite difficult. It could also theoretically be passed under reconciliations with a simple majority, but this exact strategy failed for the recent attempt at raising the minimum wage. For as much as the Republican Party loves to posture about being a bastion of blue collar, working class people, their support for labor is abysmal. Only five out of 211 House Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Republican Senator Marco Rubio penned an op-ed claiming the PRO act would create “adversarial relations” between unions and corporations and said the only reason he supports unionization at Amazon is to stop a “woke human resources fad.” In reality, the inherent state of workers and employers is adversarial, and unions only give expression to this basic conflict.

The PRO Act, unlike direct welfare spending, is a threat to corporations. It tips the scales of power towards workers — scales that have leaned massively towards owners for centuries. Labor unions’ power has been particularly gutted in the last 70 years or so, with membership falling from well above 30 percent to about 12 percent. The advent of gig economy apps is also a boon to the wealthy, enabling the hiring of supposed independent contractors at or over 40 hours a week without needing to give them any of the benefits or rights associated with full-time work.

The owner class has always placed heavy importance on the prevention of unionization and the destruction of existing unions. The direct violence of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency has transformed into the propaganda of Amazon’s duplicitous PR spokespeople. Companies like Target and Walmart force new employees to view a video extolling the horrors that a union can bring. Even where legal protections for organizing workers exist on paper, their enforcement is often incredibly lax.

The PRO Act may not pass through the Senate. Even if it does, the bill is far from counterbalancing the destruction of organized labor over the past decades. Rebuilding this power will take action not only from Congress, but also from average working Americans exercising the material power they ultimately hold over their employers.

President Biden has already expressed his support for the PRO Act. courtesy tucollegian | Collegian

Post Author: Justin Klopfer