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The 117th Congress: Labor and Employment Bills

In the 117th Congress, it’s expected that some labor and employment bills could be reintroduced with the expectation of better prospects in the Senate, but the filibuster will allow Republicans to effectively require 60 votes to pass legislation. That will force Democrats to work with Senate Republicans, creating a potential barrier for House-passed legislation that bucks traditional GOP policy orthodoxy.  Due to the 2020 Election, the House Democratic majority was reduced by 35 seats to just 11 seats now creating potential difficulty for them to move many workplace bills as they did over the last two years, when they signed off on measures seeking to raise the minimum wage, strengthen union rights, reduce gender-based pay disparities, and protect pregnant and older workers.  Additionally, a 50-50 alignment with the vice president breaking ties provides no room for error in the Senate.  Legislation that affected workers and their employers that the House approved in the 116th Congress, but was not considered in the Senate include:

  • the Raise the Wage Act, approved July 2019 on a 231–199 vote, which would gradually increase the federal minimum wage and eliminate sub-minimum wages for tipped workers;
  • the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, approved February 2020 on a 224–194 vote, which would create monetary penalties for unfair labor practices as part of a broad, pro-union overhaul of the National Labor Relations Act;
  • the Paycheck Fairness Act, approved March 2019 by a 242–187 vote, which would strengthen the Equal Pay Act with the goal of closing the gender-based wage gap;
  • the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, approved January 2020 on a 261–155 vote, which would make it easier for workers to prove that employers engaged in age or disability discrimination, or retaliated against them because they opposed bias based on a protected characteristic;
  • the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act, approved September 2019 on a 225–186 vote, which would prohibit the enforcement of predispute arbitration agreements that apply to employment, consumer, antitrust, or civil rights matters;
  • the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, approved November 2019 on a 251–158 vote, which would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop a regulation for preventing workplace violence in the health care and social services industry; and
  • the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions (Butch Lewis) Act, approved July 2019 on a 264–169 vote, which would create an agency at the Treasury Department and a related trust fund designed to bolster collapsing multiemployer pension funds.