Dozens of union members demonstrated March 8 outside U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader's office in Oregon City, insisting he vote in favor of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and the American Rescue Plan.
When the House first voted on the American Rescue Plan on Feb. 26 — President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package intended to provide aid during the ongoing pandemic and recession — Schrader was one of only two Democratic congress members who voted against it.
Organizers of the demonstration said they feel this shows Schrader isn't listening to his constituents and isn't fighting for working class Oregonians.
Now, with the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, heading to the House Floor this week for a vote, demonstrators said they're hoping they can influence Schrader to vote in favor of it.
Stacy Chamberlain, executive director of Oregon American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and one of the organizers of the rally, said the PRO Act "is an opportunity for workers to have a voice in the workplace and to have a collective bargaining agreement."
She said the act would help level the playing field and would deal with intimidation and fear tactics used against workers who are trying to unionize.
The act, which Schrader voted against when it came to the House floor in 2020, is a sweeping labor rights bill that would prohibit employers from permanently replacing employees who strike, remove limitations on secondary picketing and strikes, and provide other protections related to unions and bargaining in workplaces.
Schrader said he plans to vote in favor of the PRO Act this year, but Chamberlain said she'll believe it when she sees it.
"He put out his statement that he supports a majority of the things in this comprehensive piece of legislation and only pointed out one thing, one issue that could cause concern with some employers," she said. "And so, for me, it will be when this final vote happens, where Congressman Schrader stands."
In his statement, Schrader said he disagrees with the codification of a joint employer standard. He feels it would negatively impact many small businesses.
The PRO Act would in fact codify the joint employer standard the National Labor Relations Board enacted in its Browning-Ferris decision in 2015. This means it would allow a union to organize other organizations that may be connected to it through business arrangements, not just the single organization involved in the union.
This could create issues for businesses when they contract with labor service providers for things such as distribution, delivery, security or janitorial services.
In the case of the Browning-Ferris Decision, Browning-Ferris Industries used a staffing company called Leadpoint to provide in-house sorting and cleaning work. When the workers of the staffing company voted to join a union, they felt Browning-Ferris Industries should be at the bargaining table because they made many important decisions at the work site.
A Washington D.C. circuit court determined there was a joint employment relationship between Browning-Ferris Industries and Leadpoint and that both must participate in the collective bargaining.
Schrader said he believes the codification of a joint employer standard would "threaten to undo the existing franchise model as well as allow secondary boycotts of businesses which have no relation or connection to an ongoing dispute."
Schrader also released a statement saying he plans to vote in favor of the American Rescue Plan. However, he said he still remains concerned about the size and scope of the bill, but supports the changes made in the Senate.
"Funding for our local governments, small businesses, schools, families, healthcare providers and an extension on unemployment benefits will be a lifeline for many," he said. "And investing in vaccine distribution, testing and development is critical at this juncture when coupled with President Biden's accelerated vaccine production."
KOIN 6 News spoke to Schrader after he voted against the stimulus package in late February. At the time, he said the bill wasn't targeted to those who needed it.
"I want to make sure that when we're spending our money, we're spending it on those that need it the most. So folks that have lost jobs to folks that have lost income. Some of these programs just give money out," he said.
Schrader said he felt like the House had no ability to amend the bill and that they weren't allowed to have a discussion about it. He said he felt like this stimulus package did not have bipartisan support.
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