Earlier this week, House Democrats were joined by five Republicans as they voted 225-206 in favor of the “Protecting the Right to Organize Act.”
Otherwise known as the “PRO Act,” union leaders claim that the bill “would finally begin to level a playing field they say is unfairly tilted toward big business and management, making union organizing drives and elections unreasonably difficult.”
“The PRO Act would protect and empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize a bargain,” Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, told NPR. “It’s a game changer. If you really want to correct inequality in this country — wages and wealth inequality, opportunity and inequality of power — passing the PRO Act is absolutely essential to doing that.”
The legislation is also supported by President Joe Biden.
“I strongly encourage the House to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021, which would dramatically enhance the power of workers to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions,” Biden said in a statement on March 9.
“I urge Congress to send the PRO Act to my desk so we can seize the opportunity to build a future that reflects working people’s courage and ambition, and offers not only good jobs with a real choice to join a union — but the dignity, equity, shared prosperity and common purpose the hardworking people who built this country and make it run deserve.”
However, many groups oppose the measure. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a post in July 2019 titled “The Dangerous Ideas Behind the Pro Act,” which began “Labor unions are promoting a bill that would radically rewrite labor law in the United States. The proposal, called the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 842), is a litany of almost every failed idea from the past 30 years of labor policy. The PRO Act would undermine worker rights, drag employers into unrelated labor disputes, disrupt the economy, and force individual Americans to pay union dues regardless of their wishes.”
Among the list of outcomes, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argued that the PRO Act would “Undermine secret ballot elections — forcing workers to make their choice about unionizing in public and exposing them to threats and coercion from union agents,” “Eliminate all state Right-to-Work laws, which protect workers in more than half the country against being fired if they decline to pay union dues,” and “Take away the ability of employers to keep their workplaces open during strikes.”
The National Retail Federation has described the PRO Act as “the worst bill in Congress,” and that it is “a compilation of dozens of extreme labor policy proposals from the past several years lumped into one disastrous bill.”
Here are three key things you need to know about the PRO Act.
Independent contractors and the “gig economy”
According to Gabriella Hoffman at Townhall.com, “A growing share of the U.S. workforce — 36 percent — is participating in the gig economy, compared to 10.8 percent that is unionized.”
One provision of the PRO Act could potentially impact this “growing share” of the U.S. workforce by looking to codify California’s “ABC test” used to classify workers as employees or independent contractors.
Under this test, “a worker is considered an employee and not an independent contractor, unless the hiring entity satisfies all three of the following conditions.”
- The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
- The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
- The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.
According to the National Retail Federation, “That test severely limits opportunities for individuals to pursue independent work and has resulted in job losses in California. Expanding it nationwide would mean limited opportunity for individuals to work as independent contractors in numerous industries, including those who drive for ridesharing platforms such as Uber and Lyft and those who provide important services to retailers.”
Right-to-work laws and privacy
Currently, “right-to-work laws” refer to the protection of employees in unionized workplaces from being required to contribute union dues unless they choose to do so. According to the National Retail Federation, “Twenty-seven states have chosen to adopt right-to-work laws that give employees the free choice to decide whether to join a union without risking their jobs,” but that the “PRO Act would override the will of the voters in those states, depriving workers of the freedom to decide for themselves and forcing them to pay union dues.”
Combined with the requirement that employers would have to provide union organizers with employees’ personal information prior to a union election — with or without the employee’s consent — this only adds to the growing risk of intimidation and harassment employees may face unless they adhere to the demands of the given union.
In addition, workers could be stripped of additional privacy rights, “including the right to cast a secret ballot in union elections,” replacing such ballots with card checks, “a scheme where employees are forced to publicly cast their votes.” The erosion of privacy and secrecy, again, increases the likelihood of union intimidation.
“Secondary boycotts” of neutral businesses
According to the National Retail Federation, the PRO Act “would permit unions to strike or boycott neutral third parties that are not directly involved in an underlying labor dispute. This means a small business that simply does business with a company tied up in a labor dispute with a union would be vulnerable to picketing and boycotting by union organizers. These ‘secondary boycotts’ cause economic damage to neutral small businesses and have the potential to do irreparable harm to their reputations in their local communities.”
Partnered with the growing inclination to boycott businesses and individuals based solely on real or perceived association with ideological opponents, this could only further promote the reality of cancel culture in our society.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.