The PRO Act – Now a Matter of Political Process
April 20, 2021
Right before the election last year, we posted an article on the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (the “PRO Act” or the “Act”). While the legislation itself has not changed, there have been recent developments in Congress that point to the bill’s stagnation. The key issue now is politics*. Can the Democrats get the bill to a vote in the Senate and get the PRO Act written into law? Here is the latest update.
On March 9, 2021, President Joe Biden released a statement urging the House and subsequently the Senate to pass the PRO Act, all but confirming his intent to sign the bill into law should it end up on his desk. Later that day, the PRO Act passed in the House of Representatives with a vote of 225 – 206. The Senate received the bill on March 11, and it has since been deferred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (the “HELP Committee”). Currently, the bill is under review by the HELP Committee. Discussion and debate must close before the bill can be voted on – it is currently at risk of being filibustered in the HELP Committee, which would prevent the bill from being voted on at the Senate floor.
Unions have vowed to mobilize and apply pressure to Senators. Organizers acted on these promises on April 8. The AFL-CIO led a “national day of action” accompanied by over 200 different labor unions urging Congress to pass the PRO Act. This is a clear display of the growing labor and unionization movement across the nation, and is reflective of the decisively pro-union benefits the PRO Act would provide if it is signed into law.
Likewise, even if the current iteration of the PRO Act dies, it is unlikely this will be the last time employers hear about it. The pro-labor and pro-union movement in the United States is vocal and it is growing – it is only a matter of time before the next version of the PRO Act emerges at the federal level. These types of broad, sweeping, pro-labor and pro-union legislation are game changers for businesses across all industries, and employers must be aware and ready for these new directives.
*With the current state of the Senate, the bill sits at a 50-50 split. Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote will undoubtedly break the tie in the Democrat’s favor and move the bill to the President, who has already released a statement promising to sign the Act into law once it passes in Congress. However, the issue at hand is the filibuster. A filibuster, as defined by the Senate, is “any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.” In other words, a filibuster continues the discussion on a bill or topic. A filibuster is key in this situation since a bill cannot be voted on while discussion is open.
Cloture, the procedure that allows the Senate to close a filibuster and move to a vote on a bill, requires 60 votes in the Senate. While not impossible, it is highly unlikely that the Senate will invoke this rule and bring an end to the filibuster as the Democrats only have 50 votes at their disposal. However, if the filibuster does come to a close, then a simple majority of 51 votes is needed to move the PRO Act to the President where it will be enshrined in law.
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