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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema at a Senate hearing.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is seen during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee markup in Dirksen Building on Wednesday, August 4, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

AFL-CIO Chief Warns Rejection of PRO Act Could Cost Kyrsten Sinema

"Elected officials, if they're not listening, that's when elections end up having consequences," said the newly elected labor leader.

Julia Conley

 AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, who took the helm of the labor confederation earlier this month following the recent death of Richard Trumka, issued a clear warning Tuesday to conservative Democrats like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema: support the elimination of the filibuster and the Democrats' sweeping pro-union legislation, or risk losing crucial funding and votes from organized workers. 
With Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) now reportedly planning to support the Richard L. Trumka PRO Act, Democrats have 49 votes that they can count on to pass the Richard L. Trumka PRO Act, which would ban right-to-work laws, prevent private employers from sabotaging unionizing efforts through intimidation and other anti-worker tactics, and take other steps to make it easier for employees to organize their workplaces. The party is pushing for the support of Sinema and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). 

"Any politician endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce is no ally to workers."
—Brianna Westbrook, former House candidate

Sinema is now the only Democratic holdout regarding the legislation, which passed in the House in March. The Arizona senator has also garnered condemnation from progressives for her opposition to eliminating the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate rather than a simple majority.
"Workers want to hold elected officials accountable on an agenda that they voted for," Shuler said at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on Tuesday. "Right now that agenda is being blocked by arcane rules in the Senate. We believe that voters will take that into consideration for the next election."
"Elected officials, if they're not listening, that's when elections end up having consequences," Shuler added, without mentioning Sinema by name. 
While Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has expressed his support for the PRO Act, he has joined Sinema in opposing elimination of the filibuster. In June, an op-ed penned by Sinema, in which she claimed the procedural Senate rule "compels moderation," was derided by New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie as "unbelievably weak" and "delusional."
Shuler on Tuesday warned that the Arizona Democrat, who won't face reelection until 2024, could lose funding from the labor movement if she stands in the way of passing the pro-union bill. Sinema has taken more than $971,000 from labor groups during her political career.
At least one progressive group is reportedly searching for potential primary challengers to take on Sinema.
According to a survey taken last month by progressive think tank Data for Progress, two-thirds of Arizona voters said they would not support Sinema for reelection if she doesn't change her hard-line stance on the filibuster. Sixty-five percent of Sinema's constituents also support passing the PRO Act, according to the same poll. 
While the AFL-CIO and other progressives are ramping up pressure on Sinema, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce expressed its approval of the senator's stance on Monday, holding a press conference to thank her for not cosponsoring the legislation and claiming that "all sectors of the economy would be at risk" if it passes.
"Any politician endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce is no ally to workers," said Brianna Westbrook, an organizer and former House candidate in Arizona. "The Chamber of Commerce wants workers to be paid less and potentially work in unsafe conditions without a voice. Don’t give a Chamber of Commerce-backed candidate your vote ever."
Belén Sisa, Arizona campaign manager for Democracy Initiative and former national Latino press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), applauded Shuler for her clear message for Sinema.
"We will not back off on Sen. Sinema," said Sisa. "It's time to turn the pressure up."

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