Lawmakers react after pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize Act, sponsored by Rep. Scott, passes House

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Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., speaks during news conference unveiling of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP/WAVY) — The House has approved Democratic legislation sponsored by Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott (3rd District) that would invigorate workers’ unions following decades of court defeats and legislative setbacks.

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which passed Tuesday on a 225-206 vote, would block so-called Right to Work laws across the country and generally make it easier to organize a union.

It would also prohibit companies from hiring replacements for workers on strike.

Scott, the bill’s lead sponsor, is also the chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor.

“By passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act today, the House has taken a critical step to secure workers’ right to join a union,” Scott said. “… “The Protecting the Right to Organize Act makes the most significant upgrades to the NLRA in 85 years by providing new tools to protect workers from intimidation and retaliation, introducing meaningful penalties for companies that violate workers’ rights, and allowing workers to hold free, fair, and safe union elections.”

The legislation has been endorsed by President Joe Biden, who recently gave his support to a union drive at an Amazon facility in Alabama.

But the bill faces heavy opposition from Republicans, making it unlikely that it can pass the Senate and become law.

Here are the statements released by some elected officials in Virginia and North Carolina:

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Newport News)

VOTE IN FAVOR:

“By passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act today, the House has taken a critical step to secure workers’ right to join a union.

“Labor unions are essential to rebuilding America’s middle class and improving the lives of workers and their families. Unfortunately, over the past 70 years, union membership has dropped to the lowest level since just after the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was first enacted. This decline is not a result of workers’ choices. It is plainly obvious that the NLRA is too weak to defend workers’ rights against intensifying anti-union attacks from wealthy special interests.

“The Protecting the Right to Organize Act makes the most significant upgrades to the NLRA in 85 years by providing new tools to protect workers from intimidation and retaliation, introducing meaningful penalties for companies that violate workers’ rights, and allowing workers to hold free, fair, and safe union elections.

“Over the past year, every elected official has celebrated the courage and resilience of our workers. But there is a difference between praising hard work and standing up for hardworking people. Workers need us to take action. The Senate must immediately take up the PRO Act and ensure that workers can join together and negotiate for higher wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces.”

Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-Norfolk)

VOTE IN FAVOR:

“The pandemic has revealed that many Coastal Virginians lack access to basic workplace safety protections, health care, or paid leave,” Congresswoman Luria said. “I will always stand up for the working people of my district and defend their right to collectively bargain.”

Congressman Gregory Murphy (R-Greenville)

VOTE AGAINST:

“H.R. 842 – which should be referred to as the Pro Union Boss Act – is a bad piece of legislation that would hurt workers’ rights and line the pockets of Big Labor,” said Murphy. “If this bill were to be adopted, right-to-work laws in 27 states would be overturned, forcing workers across the country to pay millions of dollars in dues even if they don’t wish to be in a union. Workers should absolutely have the right to forgo union membership if they believe it is in their best interest – forcing them to do otherwise is tyranny and government overreach.”

“This bill would also be detrimental to job creators. According to the American Action Forum, employers could be hit with more than $47 billion in new costs annually if H.R. 842 became law, at a time when our economy needs a jolt rather than a hindrance.

“Another troubling section of this bill would require workers to hand over their private personal information to union organizers without the employees’ consent. These privacy violations should not be tolerated in this country.

“I tried to improve this legislation through an amendment, but it was unfortunately blocked by Democrats. I proudly voted against this measure today, and although it passed the House, it is my prayer it does not become law.”

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