MESSAGE FROM SECRETARY-TREASURER
Steven P. Vairma
Steve Vairma's Column:
Don't hold your breath for passage of PRO Act
It might have been the nagging memory of Hillary Clinton's disastrous performance in the 2016 presidential election, or perhaps it was their dreadful nightmares of four more years of smirking faces under red MAGA baseball hats.
Whatever it was, it caused Democrats to declare they'd kind of like to be the party of the working man (and woman) again. Unfortunately, memories of the younger Dems - we call them the Silicon Valley crowd - aren't long enough to remember when their predecessors made that claim.
The Democratic palliative for the union defection and the subsequent bad memories of 2016 comes in the form of Protect the Right to Organize, or PRO Act, which was introduced recently by House and Senate Democrats.
It sounds great, but one has to wonder if, like a one-sided love affair, the PRO Act will ever be consummated. We've heard the sweet talk before. The unions have been hearing it since 1935 when the Wagner Act (later named the National Labor Relations Act) gave workers the right to organize.
We've reviewed the history in this column before, but until it becomes past history, we are compelled to repeat it.
Workers have been expressing skepticism about Democrats' efforts on their behalf since the early 1960s when Dems helped Republicans kill a bill that would have invalidated Section 14b of the Taft-Hartley Law, which allows states to pass anti-labor right-to-work laws. Some 27 states have passed RTW laws, which result in lower wages and substandard working conditions for wager earners.
Then came trucking deregulation, under President Jimmy Carter. That's when 450,000 truck drivers who earlier were brought out of poverty and into the middle class by the late, great James Riddle Hoffa faced the loss of their union membership.
After that, while Bill Clinton was president, labor lost a bill that would have prevented employers from hiring replacement workers (scabs) during economic strikes. The two deciding votes against the bill were cast by Democratic senators from Arkansas, Clinton's home state.
Also, under Clinton, the job killing North American Free Trade Agreement was passed with no protection for American workers who lost their jobs. When Barack Obama was president, the Employee Free Trade Agreement, which would have lowered barriers to union organizing, was rejected.
So, pardon us if we are skeptical when Democrats tell us they are serious about regaining the title world champion of the working class. The Silicon Valley crowd hasn't yet done anything to prove they are in the workers' corner.
Democrats say the PRO Act is "comprehensive legislation to strengthen protections for workers' right to organize a union and bargain for higher wages, better benefits and safer working conditions."
It is a solid proposal and would be a great tool for union organizers.
So, we're willing to give the Democrats another chance. The alternative is worse.
But we're not holding our breath.
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