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Originally published in The HIll, July 20, 2021
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) this week plans to hold a hearing on a piece of legislation that, while little known outside the beltway, would have a dramatic and negative impact on workers, employers, and the economy. It would upend over 85 years of labor law and seriously damage the recovery currently underway.
The bill in question is the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (S. 420), a litany of reckless policies that would favor unions at the expense of everyone else.
Behind the PRO Act is an organized labor movement that has been declining for over six decades, and labor leaders hope to reverse that trend with this legislation. Rather than attract new members with what businesses call a value proposition, unions hope the PRO Act would tilt the field enough to corral more workers to become dues-paying members. However, senators may wish to consider what actual voters think of the legislation before rushing through a bill this radical.
Forbes Tate Partners, a bipartisan government affairs and research firm, conducted a national survey of 1,006 registered U.S. voters from May 25 to June 2, 2021, and the results reveal serious misgivings about various policies the PRO Act would impose.
Among the PRO Act’s numerous bad ideas — and there are many — would be the effective repeal of right-to-work protections that currently exist in 27 states. These laws ensure that employees do not have to pay labor union fees just to keep their jobs. The Forbes Tate poll found this provision alone was a concern for 70 percent of voters. These results did not vary much based on party either: 68 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of Independents, and 74 percent of Republicans said they had concerns over repealing right-to-work laws.
Some lawmakers may recall the widespread concern over privacy issues raised by the cynically-named Employee Free Choice Act just over ten years ago, and the Forbes Tate poll suggests voters have significant concerns over the PRO Act’s similar assault on privacy.
The PRO Act would force employers to turn over to union organizers employees’ personal information, such as home and cell phone numbers and personal email addresses, without their consent. Even worse, the bill places no restriction on how unions may use that information or with whom they may share it. This aspect of the PRO Act garnered opposition from 75 percent of voters, with a full 47 percent saying they were “very concerned” by this intrusion of their privacy.
The PRO Act would also undermine private ballot elections during union organizing campaigns. Under the PRO Act, if a union should lose such an election, the NLRB would be authorized to throw out the results and impose a union on a workplace via a chard check process. Card check involves public signatures of a card indicating support for a union, and the potential for unions to pressure workers into signing is as obvious as it is concerning. When asked, 67 percent of voters said they opposed this aspect of the PRO Act.
There are still more parts of the PRO Act that do not enjoy public support, such as the bill’s undermining of independent contractors by deeming them to be employees for unionizing purposes and its threat to the franchise business model, which elicited concern from 70 percent and 65 percent of survey respondents respectively. The list goes on.
As unfortunate as the HELP Committee’s decision to give the PRO Act a hearing is, there is still time for senators to think twice about supporting this seriously misguided proposal. Were it to pass, the recent Forbes Tate poll suggests voters might not respond well at the ballot box to those who supported it. Rest assured that the business community will remind them.
Sean Redmond is executive director of Labor Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.