DES MOINES, Iowa – The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, H.R. 842, by a 225-206 vote on Tuesday evening.
U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, IA-03, Iowa’s lone Democratic member of the House, joined her Democratic colleagues. Iowa’s Republican members of the House, U.S. Reps. Randy Feenstra, IA-04, Ashley Hinson, IA-01, and Mariannettte Miller-Meeks, IA-02, opposed the bill.
The bill would override state right-to-work laws and create penalties for employers who interfere with employees trying to unionize. It also gives independent contractors and gig workers the ability to collectively bargain alongside employees.
“Hardworking Iowans, the men and women who work every single day to support themselves and their families, are the foundation of our economy. Those dedicated Iowans deserve a voice in their workplace, and the legislation I supported today ensures workers’ rights to collectively bargain for adequate pay and benefits, fair hours, and healthy and safe working conditions,” Axne said in a released statement.
Republicans said the bill puts union bosses over workers.
“With the so-called ‘PRO Act,’ Democrats are once again attacking workers by prioritizing the interests of union bosses. This bill would stifle the rights of hardworking Iowans by forcing them into one-size-fits-all contracts, exposing their personal information without their consent, and curbing their ability to work as independent contractors,” Feenstra said.
“What’s worse, it would repeal Iowa’s right-to-work law, meaning thousands of Iowans would be forced to use a chunk of their hard-earned paycheck to become a member of a union they don’t even want to join. Not only would it lower take-home pay, it would also allow unions to use workers’ money to fund left-wing groups like Planned Parenthood. Any comprehensive labor reform bill should prioritize workers, but this bill prioritizes union bosses. That’s why I strongly opposed this bill,,” he added.
Hinson focused on providing COVID-19 relief for workers.
“The PRO Act is a radical gift to union bosses at the expense of workers and small businesses in Iowa—this bill is fundamentally anti-worker. We should be working in a bipartisan manner to ensure that workers have the support and relief they need amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why I offered an amendment to this bill that would have exempted workers from having to pay union fees if they are experiencing financial hardship right now. Iowan and American workers who need every extra dollar right now shouldn’t be forced to pay a union,” she said.
Hinson introduced two amendments that House Democrats rejected:
- One amendment would reinsert the whistleblower protection provisions stripped from this bill. Hinson said it would have prevented discrimination against anyone who reports violations of this bill once enacted.
- The other amendment exempted workers from paying union dues or fees if they can demonstrate financial hardships related to COVID-19. If an individual received any federal COVID relief under the CARES Act or the December coronavirus response package, he or she could not be forced to pay a union.
Miller-Meeks said if Democrats wanted to help workers, they would oppose canceling the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“Supporting workers and businesses are not mutually exclusive; we can do both at the same time. The PRO Act is an unnecessary challenge to the rights of business owners and workers alike. The bill would abolish right-to-work laws across the country, including the laws we have in Iowa, and is yet another attack on states’ rights,” she said.
“If this Administration really cared about workers’ rights, it would not have canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline on day one, a move that was opposed by several major unions, including the Teamsters and AFL-CIO. Even though I have family members who were members of unions, I could not support this gift to union bosses,” Miller-Meeks added.
The PRO Act faces a considerable hurdle in the U.S. Senate, the filibuster. The bill, as written, is unlikely to garner 60 votes.