Vice President, Labor Policy
January 24, 2020
Last month, this blog observed that the Democrat majority in the U.S. House of Representatives had yet to take up one of organized labor’s biggest priorities, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The post noted that progressives and labor unions were reportedly growing frustrated over the continued delay of the bill, which the House Education and Labor Committee introduced in May 2019 and approved at the end of September.
Just after the New Year, pressure from within the Democrat caucus intensified when a group of 76 House members wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip James Clyburn asking them to advance the legislation. When asked for comment on the letter, Rep. Hoyer reportedly promised that the bill would be brought to the floor for a vote within the coming weeks, saying “We hope to have the PRO Act on the floor before Presidents’ Day.”
Given that today is the last day of the Martin Luther King Day recess, that means the bill could be brought up as early as next week, but either way a vote should happen by February 13, which would not be much of a Valentine’s Day gift for workers or employers, to say the least.
As this blog has noted in detail, the PRO Act is a litany of bad ideas that are designed to reverse organized labor’s continuing six-decade decline in membership. Among its numerous flawed proposals, the bill would:
-Undermine secret ballot elections—instead favoring a card check process that would force 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.
Assuming that House leadership stays true to its word, the PRO Act appears to be poised for a floor vote. Even if it faces steep odds in the current Senate, the PRO Act lays out what organized labor wants should it ever have the political stars aligned correctly, and it would wreak economic havoc were it ever to pass.