“You’re going to end up in a place like Illinois, where there’s not a right-to-work law.
“Think about this, their [Illinois] union membership has only gone up 1% since we put in right-to-work laws across the country.
“Union membership in Indiana has gone up 24% in a right-to-work state.” – Senator Mike Braun (R, IN), Senate HELP Committee 7/22/21
As mentioned in previous articles, including Wednesday’s McHenry County Blog article about the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing Thursday morning where the PRO Act was discussed, including witnesses’ testimony.
The official topic for the Senate HELP Committee hearing was “The Right to Organize: Empowering American Workers in a 21st Century Economy”
During the nearly 2 1/2 hours HELP Committee hearing, one of the Senators shared how some were triple-booked and could not be in attendance Thursday morning. Indeed, HELP Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R, NC) was unable to attend, so Senator Mike Braun (R, IN) was the acting Ranking Member during the Committee hearing led by Committee Chair Patty Murray (D, WA).
Both Senators Murray and Braun gave opening statements which lasted around 8 minutes, before proceeding to the 4 witnesses. In most congressional committees, the majority party calls 3 witnesses, and the minority party calls 1.
Senator Murray opened Thursday’s hearing and gave her opening statement.
After the Chair’s opening statement, she recognized acting Ranking Member Braun. The Braun video is cued for the context of the Illinois reference, where he begins the 3 minute outline of his concerns with the PRO Act.
The first nearly 5 minutes included Senator Braun’s background as a small business owner for nearly 20 years prior to his election to the U.S. Senate in 2018. You can restart the Braun video to hear the nearly first 5 minutes of his opening statement.
Senator Braun’s reference “put right-to-work laws across the country” is admittedly vague. The historical context bears brief study for complete contextuality of the historical reference.
In the mid-term elections of 1946, Republicans took control of both houses of Congress for the first time since before the Great Depression and World War II. Being 15 years out of power, Republicans, in spite of Democrat President Harry S. Truman in the White House, were ready to pass some Republican policies, including dealing with the excesses, in their opinion, of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, sometimes known as the Wagner Act, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.
The result was the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 which passed both houses of Congress, and was vetoed by President Truman. Majority Republicans, with help from southern Democrats, successfully voted to override President Truman’s veto, and Taft-Hartley amended the NLRA, which included states being allowed to pass right-to-work laws.
Senator Braun’s time reference, based on Taft-Hartley, would make one assume his “1%” union membership growth for Illinois is measured from 1947 to today. The precise reference is unclear, but Taft-Hartley was when Congress formally allowed states to pass right-to-work laws.
Given Senator Braun is from Indiana, that brings up something unique to the Hoosier State — it’s the only state that passed a right-to-work law (1957), repealed it (1965), and then passed it again (2012). Therefore, Indiana’s time reference of “24%” union membership growth is vague, given is it collective/comparable to the Illinois reference, or only for the current right-to-work law since 2012.
With the opening statements concluded, the witnesses were heard. The entire video of the hearing, including witness testimony and questioning by Senators, including transcript of witnesses testimony can be viewed here.
There were no formal actions or committee votes on Thursday. Currently, the PRO Act still only has 47 cosponsors, with the same 3 Democrat Senators not cosponsoring:
- Mark Kelly (AZ)
- Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)
- Mark Warner (VA)
Until all 3 cosponsor, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY) will not bring the PRO Act to the floor, in spite of passing the House on a partisan vote in March.
Additional, more detailed account of the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, including the part then-freshman Congressman Richard M. Nixon (R, CA-12) played can be viewed here.