A week after President Biden offered his support for a unionization effort by Amazon warehouse staffers in Alabama, the White House issued a statement endorsing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. The pair of moves distinguishes Biden among his recent predecessors of both parties in his outspoken support of the labor movement.
The PRO Act is one of the most significant bills for the labor movement in decades: It would remove obstacles to workers forming unions without employer interference, and would effectively end the anti-union “right to work” laws that are currently in effect in 28 states. The legislation, which passed in the House last month, now awaits its fate in the Senate.
The progressive legislation could run into hurdles in the 50-50 split Senate, though Biden’s public support for it grants the potentially game-changing bill an important ally.
The White House’s statement of support, which was issued by the Office of Management and Budget, acknowledged that the PRO Act would protect workers’ rights to organize a union and use collective bargaining to fight for better wages, benefits and workplace conditions.
“America was not built by Wall Street. It was built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class,” the OMB said in the statement. “Unions put power in the hands of workers.”
The OMB also acknowledged decades-long anti-union efforts by many employers and the lax enforcement of existing labor laws, which it said had contributed to low rates of union membership: 6.3% of the country’s private sector wage and salary workers as of last year.
OMB “strongly encourages” the House to pass the PRO Act and “looks forward” to working with Congress on enacting the progressive legislation that protects workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, the statement said.
It is unclear whether Biden will make public remarks vocalizing his support for the PRO Act.
Weeks before Biden threw his support behind Amazon workers’ unionization efforts in Alabama — which came amid the e-commerce giant actively working to discourage its employees from supporting the union by deploying intimidation tactics such as mandatory meetings to disparage the drive — the President offered unions an important victory.
Within 24 hours of entering office in January, Biden fired Peter Robb, a Trump appointee at the National Labor Relations Board. Groups including the Service Employees International Union and Communications Workers of America had urged Biden to get rid of the Trump appointee at the NLRB immediately.
Robb, who served as a former lead attorney for the Reagan administration during its successful effort to break the PATCO strike, was largely opposed by organized labor.