Senator Manchin throws support behind U.S. labor reform bill
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said Monday he was supporting a comprehensive labor reform bill that is adding some momentum to the legislation after it was passed in the House of Representatives last month.
The West Virginia Democrat said the PRO Act would improve the playing field for unions, and he looked forward to working with a non-partisan group of lawmakers to pass it. He made the announcement at a virtual National Press Club event with Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America union.
The bill, introduced in February by Democratic Senator Patty Murray and backed by President Joe Biden, would strengthen the right to collective bargaining, allow unions to collect dues from non-members under their contracts, and set penalties for companies which, among other things, violate workers' rights other measures.
Roberts said the passing of the laws would go a long way towards recovering in Appalachia, which has been badly hit by the conversion of energy companies from coal to renewable energy. U.S. coal production has plummeted to its lowest level since the 1970s, and jobs in the industry have declined more than 40% since 2008.
The bill was passed in House 225-206 but has an uphill battle in the Senate. Even with Manchin's support, the bill does not yet have all 50 Democrats in the 100-member Senate, at the level where Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer announced a vote.
Supporters of the law should also have the support of Democratic Senators Mark Warner, Kyrsten Sinema, and Mark Kelly, all of whom have expressed a degree of skepticism.
When asked, Manchin did not say whether it supports a Clean Energy Standard (CES), as proposed in Biden's $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure package. A CES would gradually set increasing targets for the energy industry to reduce emissions until they hit zero by using wind and solar power, using existing nuclear power, or extracting carbon from coal and natural gas plants. However, Manchin reiterated its support for carbon capture. "We can do so much more, we can get rid of the ... greenhouse gases," he said of the technology.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Aurora Ellis)
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