A bill that would allow illegal immigrants to “be eligible for damages from their employer if their labor rights are judged to have been violated” was passed by House lawmakers on Thursday. This is while rejecting a measure that would prevent unions from recruiting those in the country illegally.
The “Protecting the Right to Organize” (PRO) Act is described by Fox News as seeking to “expand labor protections and boost unions across the board.” One of its stated purposes is “to end worker misclassification and stop employers from denying workers benefits by doing so. It passed in a 224-194 vote, mostly along party lines,” said Fox News.
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A factsheet from the Committee on Education and Labor says, “The penalties for violating the [National Labor Relations Act] are weaker than those for violating other labor and employment laws, and workers lack a private right of action to pursue relief on their own. Workers are frequently misclassified as independent contractors or supervisors, and thus excluded from the protections afforded to employees covered by the NLRA.”
The bill would also abolish state right-to-work laws. “Where workers have previously had the freedom to choose whether or not to pay fees & join a union, they will now be forced to pay membership fees or lose their job,” Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., said, opposing the bill. “This will put immeasurable power in the hands of union bosses.”
On the other hand, many 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls support the bill. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have all sponsored the Senate version of the legislation.
“The sustained, decades-long attacks on labor have driven union membership to historic lows and revealed that current labor laws are too weak to defend workers’ basic right to join a union and collectively bargain with their employer,” bill sponsor Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said in a statement after it passed. “The PRO Act is a comprehensive and sensible response that will level the playing field for workers.”