Feb 07, 2020 - 10:45am

House Passes PRO Act


Executive Director, Labor Policy

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Portrait of the U.S. Capitol
Capitol Building and surrounding grounds. Photo Credit: William Phillips/Bloomberg

The U.S. House of Representatives on February 5 passed H.R. 2474, the so-called Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. As expected, it passed along a largely party-line vote of 224-194, underscoring the divisive nature of this radical legislation.  While the PRO Act stands little chance of gaining traction in the Senate, its passage in the House serves as a clear indication of where the current Democrat majority would like to take labor policy if given the chance.  

As this blog has explained, the PRO Act represents a massive departure from current policy and would rewrite the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to favor the interests of organized labor. That approach would eviscerate the balance Congress hoped to achieve when it passed the NLRA 80 years ago.    

In its place, the PRO Act would enact a litany of different provisions that 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. 

-Impose on the full country California’s stringent definition of “independent contractor” — denying individuals the ability to work independently, threatening the emerging “gig” economy, and taking away the flexibility that has allowed American businesses of all sizes to grow. 

-Authorize “secondary boycotts” — allowing unions to launch disruptive protests and pickets against any employer, even those that have nothing to do with a labor dispute. 

-Codify an expansive “joint employer” standard—meaning that businesses could suddenly face liability for workplaces they don’t control and workers they don'’t employ. 

-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. 

-Impose mandatory union contracts if a union and employer do not reach an agreement. This would undermine the collective bargaining process, saddle employers with potentially unaffordable contracts, and deprive workers of the right to vote on the terms and conditions of their own employment. 

-Increase needless class action lawsuits by banning employment arbitration agreements. 

-Deny employers any role in the union election process, which will ensure that workers can’t get balanced information about a critical workplace decision. 

-Interfere with attorney-client confidentiality and make it harder for businesses, particularly small businesses, to secure legal advice on complex labor law matters. 

-Impose personal liability on managers for alleged NLRA violations along with penalties as high as $100,000. 

-Take away the ability of employers to keep their workplaces open during strikes. 

With the House vote done, no further legislative action is likely to occur this year, but the PRO Act will loom large for labor unions in the 2020 elections. If given the chance, their political allies will seek to pass this legislation and wreak havoc on an economy that is doing rather well. 

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About the Author

Sean P. Redmond
Executive Director, Labor Policy

Sean P. Redmond is Executive Director, Labor Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.