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Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support H.R. 2474, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, legislation to restore fairness to the economy by strengthening the federal laws that protect workers’ right to join a union. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Chair. I thank Madam Chair, and I thank the gentleman for yielding and thank him for his leadership in bringing this important amendment to the Floor, and I rise in support of it. It clarifies that nothing in this act shall be construed to the jurisdictional standards of the National Labor Relations Board with respect to small businesses. Thank you for your leadership in that regard, Mr. Rouda. I urge passage of the amendment.
Madam Chair, I proudly rise on this historic day as the Democratic House takes bold action to restore fundamental fairness for America’s workers by passing the Protecting the Right to Organize act, the PRO Act. I salute our distinguished Chairman, Bobby Scott, for his lifetime of leadership to tilt back the playing field to the side of the American worker. Thank you to Members of the Education and Labor Committee and all who have worked to make this legislation go over the finish line.
What unifies our Caucus – some people always say to us, ‘Your Caucus is so very diverse. What unifies them?’ I say it is diverse in every way; sixty percent of our Caucus are women, people of color, LGBTQ. We have generational differences, geographical differences, gender, gender ID, ethnicity, opinion, the beautiful diversity of opinion, but what does unify us is our commitment to America’s working families and what brings us to the Floor today.
It is a commitment to salute working families, to raise paychecks and to do so by enabling workers to bargain collectively. I always say that the middle class, the middle class is the backbone of America’s democracy. The middle class has a union label on it. So many things that have come into the workforce, whether it is the 40-hour workweek, working conditions, better pay, for family leave, collective bargaining, for secure retirement – the list goes on and on. The labor unions have been responsible for that.
Yesterday, several members and I were honored to meet with Jennifer Womack, a worker who had been prevented from joining a union. I want to share her story with you, my colleagues. She told us about the unfair working conditions that she has faced: how she was illegally denied pay after missing work to undergo serious surgery, even after spending her entire recovery period on the phone with the benefits department to help her pay her bills. And one of her managers engaged in offensive and bigoted behavior, but was never disciplined, but in fact, was given a company award.
When Jennifer and her co-workers tried to form a union to improve working conditions, she was subjected to humiliating retaliation and forced to attend anti-union training designed to try to scare her off. She told us, ‘I believe the decision of whether to join a union should be up to me and other workers without having to face threats and retaliation,’ and Democrats agree.
Sadly, her story is shared every day by millions of Americans who face a grim reality of reprisals, retaliation or denial of their rights to join or trying to join a union.
Democrats offered a better deal for workers, pledging to tilt the playing field, with Mr. Chairman, so much in the lead, tilt the playing field back to the side of workers. And since day one, our Majority has worked to build an economy that works for workers’ interests, not the special interests: passing a fifteen dollar minimum wage, securing paycheck fairness for women – and I thank unions for their leadership in our country for equal pay for equal work. No institution has done more in that regard, protecting the pay, and we are trying to make that the case for all workers that you would equal pay for equal work. Protecting the pensions of millions and lowering health care costs and increasing the paychecks, to name a few.
Today, we are building on that progress by passing the cornerstone of our pro-worker agenda, the PRO Act. With this legislation, Democrats are holding companies that violate workers’ rights accountable. We are strengthening workers’ sacred collective bargaining rights, and we are protecting workers’ access to fair union elections.
The PRO Act secures justice for all workers and advances progress for all. As Richard Trumka, the President of the AFL-CIO, which represents twelve and a half million Americans and 55 unions, testified last year, ‘A happier, healthier and more upwardly mobile workforce is good for our economy as our consumers have additional money to spend. Local tax revenues increase and education funding is bolstered. Inequality shrinks. It’s a virtuous cycle. The union movement and all working people are hungry to pro-worker reforms to our existing labor laws. It’s time for our laws to catch up. It’s time to make the PRO a part of the law of the land.’ And I quite agree.
Democrats call on Republicans to join to pass the PRO Act and to rebalance the scales towards workers. I always say whether it’s an election or debate or negotiation, who has the leverage? Who has the leverage? Well, right now, there is too much leverage used against America’s workers, and that is harmful to America’s working families. We want to, again, tilt that playing field back into the direction of workers, so their leverage is increased, so their opportunities are improved, and then we can move closer to ending the inequality and disparity of income in our country.
So, I urge our colleagues to vote aye on this important PRO Act and commend the Chairman, the distinguished Chairman, for his leadership, again, Mr. Scott and members of your Committee. And I, again, thank Mr. Rouda for his amendment that clarifies that nothing in this act shall be construed to affect the jurisdictional standards of the NRLB, with respect to small businesses. Thank you for your leadership, Mr. Rouda.
With that, Madam Chair, I urge an aye vote on both, and I yield back the balance of my time.
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