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Scott's Labor Union Bill Passes House, Faces Hurdles in Senate

Liam James Doyle/NPR

The House of Representatives isn’t dealing with just COVID-19 relief.  Members also voted Tuesday night on a labor law introduced by a senior member of the Virginia delegation.

Virginia is one of 27 states that has what some people call a “right to work” law, which union supporters sometimes call a freeloader law. That’s because it allows people who aren’t members of unions and don’t pay union dues to benefit from higher wages and working conditions negotiated on their behalf by unions.

That’s why Congressman Bobby Scott of Newport News introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which creates what he calls a “fair-share fee” allowing unions and employers to assess fees supporting the cost of collective bargaining.  “The PRO Act provides new tools to protect workers from anti-union intimidation and retaliation," Scott says. "It then introduces meaningful penalties for companies that violate workers’ rights and closes loopholes they use to exploit workers.”

Advocates say the bill would be one of the most dramatic changes to U. S. labor laws since the Great Depression.

Republican Congressman Bob Good of Lynchburg says unions make American companies less efficient and less profitable.   “Unions protect the unproductive worker, diminish the incentive to stand out and be exceptional. They treat everyone the same based on seniority," Good argues. "They encourage an entitlement mentality, and they foster an attitude of resentment against management.”

The House has approved the bill Tuesday night.  Just five Republicans voted in favor of it. 

And it faces an even more difficult time in the Senate. A handful of Senate Democrats have yet to sign on as co-sponsors, and even if the bill had the support of all Senate Democrats it would need either 10 Senate Republicans or the elimination of the legislative filibuster.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.