What the PRO Act means to unions in the push for infrastructure

A little more than a week after being appointed General President of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), Jim Williams Jr. joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss his new role, the likelihood of the PRO Act’s passage and what it would mean for union organizing if it became law.

He also discussed the $1 trillion bi-partisian infrastructure bill and how, if passed, would create jobs for union tradesmen and tradeswomen.

The PRO Act must remain a priority

On Sept. 1, Williams became the IUPAT General President after serving as General Vice President at-Large/Organizing. His appointment as General President makes him the youngest president of any International building trade union in the U.S., and the youngest president among unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

With a background in organizing, Williams understands what is at stake regarding the potential passage of the PRO Act.

In addition to fighting for the rights of working families, organizing is a key priority for unions, Williams said. Elevating young people to leadership roles brings in fresh ideas how organizing can be accomplished, he added.

Passage of the PRO Act would be key to grow unions. However, with no Republican support and a few Democrat holdouts in the U.S. Senate, he admitted it is a tough fight to overcome the filibuster and get 60 votes. Williams is confident that at least some aspects of the PRO Act will become law, particularly with President Biden’s pro-union stance.

Any U.S. representative who receives union support must support the PRO Act, he added.

Williams pointed to Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who opposed the Employee Free Choice Act in 2008. When Specter changed parties from Republican to Democrat, he received widespread union support, despite his continued opposition to the pro-labor legislation. Williams said this can never happen again.

The infrastructure bill would fuel apprenticeships and union growth

Williams also discussed the $1 trillion proposed infrastructure bill and what it would mean for unions if it passed. He later pointed to the $3.5 trillion proposed budget appropriation bill that would address further infrastructure spending on education, housing and childcare. Both would bring construction jobs to many communities, he said.

While President Biden indicated he wants the bulk of jobs created to be union, Williams pointed out that nothing is ever handed to the labor movement. Unions have to fight for everything they get, he said. Fortunately, the labor movement has the right people in place to do so, he added.


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