The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that proponents are calling a landmark bill to empower the nation’s workers.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) passed the House Friday, following a successful effort by Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) to bring the bill to the floor.
The Pro ACT would expand labor unions’ negotiating power, provide new protections for unions and workers, and stiffen penalties for companies that violate workers’ rights.
After months of inaction, Golden led a January letter signed by 75 members pressing House Leadership for a vote on the PRO Act. That day, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the bill would receive a vote.
“For decades, American workers have endured attacks on their wages and workplace rights,” the lawmakers wrote, adding figures on widening income inequality in the U.S.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” they said, arguing that by allowing more workers to join unions, workers would make more money.
In 2018, median weekly earnings for nonunion workers were 81 percent of what union workers made, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The passage of the PRO Act will allow a new generation the right to join a union without the fear and intimidation of losing their job,” said Dave Sullivan of Maine, a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
The House agreed, passing the PRO Act with support from most Democrats and five House Republicans.
On Twitter, Golden called it the most significant legislation to strengthen unions and hold corporations accountable in 80 years.
“Expanding unions and empowering workers is one of the effective things we can do to make the economy work better for regular Mainers, rather than for corporations and the wealthy” Golden said in a separate tweet.
Workers groups like the Maine Education Association (MEA) and National Nurses United back the bill. In a tweet supporting the legislation, MEA said that when workers have the power to stand together and form a union, they get bigger better paychecks, better benefits and safer working conditions.
Nationwide, support for labor unions is near all-time highs, according to Gallup, which has been conducting surveys on the topic since 1936.
Still, the bill faces an uphill battle in the Republican-led Senate.