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Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks during a press conference advocating for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act on February 5, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Progressive US Lawmakers Mark Black Friday With Calls to Pass the PRO Act

"The right to organize, fight for better working conditions, and fair pay must always be protected."

Jessica Corbett

As workers worldwide took to the streets while shoppers flooded stores for Black Friday, progressive U.S. lawmakers used the event to pressure the Senate to pass sweeping, House-approved labor rights legislation.

"The Senate should celebrate Black Friday by passing the PRO Act to protect the hardworking folks who are being underpaid and overworked this holiday season."

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is backed by economists, labor groups, and various progressive advocacy organizations. It would boost access to union elections, expand collective bargaining rights, and introduce penalties for exploitative companies.

Although the PRO Act (H.R. 842/S. 420) was opposed by 205 House Republicans and one Democrat—Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, who faces a progressive primary challenger for 2022—it passed the lower chamber in March. Since then, the evenly split Senate has failed to vote on it.

"The Senate should celebrate Black Friday by passing the PRO Act to protect the hardworking folks who are being underpaid and overworked this holiday season," tweeted Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). "Every worker deserves a union."

Congressman Jesús "Chuy" García (D-Ill.) concurred, declaring that "the right to organize, fight for better working conditions, and fair pay must always be protected."

García also shared a video from Amnesty International USA calling on Amazon to "respect workers' right to organize a union."

As Common Dreams reported Friday, a coalition of advocacy groups and unions planned #MakeAmazonPay protests and strikes in at least 20 countries to demand the e-commerce giant raise wages, improve workplace conditions, operate more sustainably, and pay its fair share of taxes.

In response to d of a mandatory anti-union meeting for Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) also recently called for passing the PRO Act.

"If unions didn't help working people," he said, "then massive corporations like Amazon wouldn't fight so hard to stop their workers from unionizing."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, pointed out this week that the filibuster is blocking the PRO Act and other Democratic legislation—including voting rights bills and a measure that would protect the right to abortion nationwide.

Despite Senate Republicans' dedication to obstructing Democrats' agenda, a few Democratic senators still refuse to support abolishing or amending the filibuster. However, even if it were killed or changed, it's not clear the PRO Act—spearheaded by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)—would pass the upper chamber.

Although reporting earlier this year suggested that Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) were planning to support the pro-union bill—which would leave Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who also opposes ending the filibuster, as the sole holdout in their party—they still haven't formally signed on as co-sponsors.

Without calling out any lawmakers by name, AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler in late August signaled there could be electoral consequences for right-wing Democrats like Sinema who won't support ending the filibuster or passing the PRO Act.

"Workers want to hold elected officials accountable on an agenda that they voted for. 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," Shuler said. "Elected officials, if they're not listening, that's when elections end up having consequences."

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