Months after endorsing a Democratic challenger that failed to oust the Republican incumbent, the AFL-CIO on Tuesday thanked Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) for signing onto a bill bolstering labor protections and weakening right-to-work laws that allow workers to skirt union membership and dues.
Congressional record shows Van Drew signed on as a cosponsor to the bill on Feb. 15, nine days after he was one of just five House Republicans to vote in its favor from the chamber’s floor.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), the only other New Jersey Republican in Congress, previously signed on as a sponsor and voted yes on Feb. 6, when the House passed the bill in a 224-194 vote that fell almost entirely along party lines.
All 10 of New Jersey’s Democratic congresspeople are co-sponsoring the bill, as are Sens. Bob Menendez (D-North Bergen) and Cory Booker (D-Newark).
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) would strengthen workers’ rights during workplace disputes, institute penalties for employer retaliation and adopt a test that will likely see many independent contractors reclassified as employees.
The AFL-CIO’s relationship with Van Drew has swung back and forth throughout his time in Congress. The union backed him in his 2018 campaign against Republican Seth Grossman, but it backed Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy last year after Van Drew defected to the Republican Party.
The union’s thanks was intended mostly as a message to its members. A similar email sent after the House advanced the bill last week that praised the rest of New Jersey’s congressional delegation for their support of the PRO Act noted Van Drew “chose not to co-sponsor this long-overdue pro-labor bill.”