WASHINGTON—Saying the seven House Democrats who voted against the Protecting the Right to Organize Act earlier this month had “betrayed the fundamental principle of the Democratic Party,” the Communications Workers of America is urging the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to cut off campaign support for them.
“Ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal, Democrats have recognized that to combat inequality and to build a strong and vibrant middle class, the ability for workers to organize, join unions, and bargain for their fair share of economic growth has been critical,” CWA President wrote Chris Shelton in a letter to DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos announced Feb. 20. With the Republican Party “committed to an agenda of eliminating unions and any semblance of workers having a voice in their workplaces and the U.S. economy,” he added, “we must lock arms to defend against” corporate interests infecting the Democrats with the same agenda.
The House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which lead sponsor Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) called “the most significant upgrade to U.S. labor law in 80 years,” by a 224-194 vote on Feb. 6. The bill would repeal states’ authority to enact so-called “right to work” laws that prohibit union shops, outlaw the permanent replacement of striking workers, expand penalties for unfair labor practices such as firing union supporters, and set strict limits on when employers can define workers as “independent contractors.” It would also forbid “captive-audience meetings” designed to discourage union organizing, enable workers to choose union representation by “card check,” and repeal the 1947 ban on “secondary boycotts,” strikes or boycotts in solidarity with a strike by workers at a different employer.
The seven Democrats who voted no were Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Ben McAdams of Utah, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Stephanie Murphy of Florida, and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.
“They must be denied the support of the Democratic Party for refusing to stand with working Americans,” Shelton wrote.
The DCCC did not respond to a request for comment.
Most of the seven represent Republican-leaning areas. Four—Cunningham, Horn, McAdams, and McBath—are first-term House members who won Republican seats in 2018, while Murphy unseated veteran Republican John Mica in 2016, in an Orlando-area district. Horn, from Oklahoma City, was the first Democrat elected to the House from Oklahoma since 2010.
McBath, a gun-control advocate from the Atlanta suburbs who got into politics after her 17-year-old son was murdered by a middle-aged white man for playing loud hip-hop on his car stereo, is one of the three Congressional Black Caucus members who have endorsed former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Murphy, who is white, was the second House Democrat to support him.
Schrader, who represents Salem and the surrounding rural areas, was elected in 2008. He has been a strong advocate of deficit reduction, including reducing cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients.
Cuellar, an anti-abortion Democrat from South Texas who has been in Congress for 16 years, said in a statement that he voted against the Protecting the Right to Organize Act because it “provides a one-size fits all approach that will stifle innovation, take power from workers to union bosses, and further inserts the federal government into the private sector.” In particular, he objected that the legislation “eliminates all state Right-to-Work laws, including in Texas, which protect workers in more than half the country against being fired if they decline to pay union dues.” He also said that it would wipe out the more than 1,000 franchise businesses in his district that provide over 12,000 jobs.
Several major Texas unions are supporting Cuellar’s challenger in the March 3 primary: Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old Laredo immigration and human-rights lawyer. She has been endorsed by the Texas AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union Texas, and the Texas American Federation of Teachers.
The DCCC, following its general policy of opposing primary challenges to Democratic incumbents—to the point of denying contracts to political consulting firms that work for challengers—is backing Cuellar.