May 19, 2021 - 4:15pm

Tucson Opinion: The PRO Act is a threat to Arizona's economy

 

Published in the Arizona Daily Star (www.tuscon.com)

By Amber Smith and Neil Bradley Special to the Arizona Daily Star

May 19, 2021

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writers:

The most consequential legislation you have never heard of is a quiet threat to Arizona’s economy.

The bill is called The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Instead of helping business grow as the nation recovers from the pandemic, the PRO Act would radically rewrite American labor law at the expense of workers and employers.

While the Senate has not taken the PRO Act up yet, the House of Representatives has already passed it, and President Joe Biden has promised to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Thankfully, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly have refrained from signing on to the measure, which has 47 Senate co-sponsors. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised that he will bring it to the floor if he can get to 50.

Among its many concerning provisions, perhaps the most controversial is that the PRO Act would effectively overturn Arizona’s right-to-work law, meaning that workers in a union setting could be forced to pay union dues or be fired.

Currently, workers in Arizona do not have to pay unwanted union dues or fees, but the PRO Act would eliminate that fundamental freedom, which is strongly supported by voters in the state and around the nation. In fact, a 2014 Gallup poll finds that Americans support right to work by a whopping 71% to 22% margin.

The PRO Act does not empower employees. In fact, it actually creates a potentially toxic work environment. The bill specifically circumvents the longstanding system of secret ballot union elections. If a union loses a secret ballot vote, it can simply claim employer “interference” and seek a rerun, but this time using just signature cards instead of actual votes.

Unions could show up at your house (and the PRO Act requires employers to give unions your personal information) and demand that you sign a card indicating support.

Once they have a majority of cards, the union is certified—no private votes needed. This kind of process invites the very kind of intimidation and threats that our secret ballot system is designed to prevent and takes advantage of what should be considered a fair and just democratic system.

As if that were not enough, the PRO Act also would redefine what it means to be an independent contractor by adopting a restrictive California standard that would categorize many of these individuals as employees instead.

Nearly 1 million Arizonans work as independent contractors, setting their own hours and deciding the type of work they want to do. If the PRO Act becomes law, many, if not most, could lose that ability and in some cases their livelihood.

Another bad idea from the PRO Act would legalize protests known as secondary boycotts, which Congress outlawed in 1947. It works this way: a union is striking at a business your business sells to; the union organizes pickets in front of your business to put pressure on you to put pressure on them.

If the PRO Act becomes law, business owners in Arizona could wake up on any given day to find picket lines in front of their business even though the dispute has nothing to do with them.

The PRO Act is a partisan bill that would overturn our laws here in Arizona, jeopardizing how 1 million Arizonans choose to work, and subjecting businesses and employees alike to new level of harassment.

Whether it becomes law or not depends largely on Arizona’s two senators. Thank you to Sens. Sinema and Kelly for recognizing the harm that would come to our state and employers, should this legislation pass.

Please contact their offices and tell them, that you, too, agree that Arizona’s right-to-work policies, which have been in existence since 1947, give both employees and employers the right level of protection to thrive.

Amber Smith is President and CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber. Neil Bradley is EVP and Chief Policy Officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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