Feb 03, 2020 - 12:15am

The PRO Act Is an Attack on Worker Freedom


Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

All of us are pro-worker. Without the hard work, talent, and ideas of the American workforce, nothing gets done. Crops aren’t harvested, steel isn’t made, products aren’t delivered, software isn’t coded, and our economy grinds to a halt.

But in Washington, the term “pro-worker” is tossed around loosely and not always accurately. A salient example is the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act, which the House of Representatives plans to vote on before President’s Day. While the bill is wrapped up in the gauzy packaging of worker rights, in reality, it’s just the opposite. It would undermine worker freedom in a number of ways.

First, the bill would threaten private ballots during a union organizing vote. The private ballot has been a sacred right in American elections for over a century. But under the PRO Act, workers could be forced to sign a card indicating their position on unionization in front of union organizers. The potential for coercion is obvious.

Second, the PRO Act would effectively nullify Right-to-Work laws in all 27 states that have them. These laws protect workers from being fired for declining to pay union dues. Right-to-Work laws not only protect worker freedom, but states that have them have experienced stronger economic growth and have seen faster increases in personal income. These laws are good for workers.

Third, the PRO Act would threaten independent workers and the gig economy by imposing a new definition of independent contractors. It includes word-for-word copy of the independent contractor test from California’s AB-5, a law intended to attack ride-sharing companies. The unintended consequences of AB-5 are already costing jobs and upending the lives of many workers in the Golden State.

Take independent journalists. Many are being given the choice of either moving out of California or losing their ability to work because AB-5 only allows them to write 35 pieces a year, after which they would have to be considered an employee.

The PRO Act is even worse than California’s law, because it has no exemptions for any type of workers. It would hurt freelancers of all types, forcing them to become employees whether or not they want to.

The PRO Act undermines worker freedom one provision after another, whether it’s losing the private ballot, being forced to pay union dues, or being told you can no longer work as an independent contractor.

Members of Congress shouldn’t be fooled by the window dressing of the PRO Act. They must stand up for worker rights and vote no.

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About the Author

About the Author

Thomas J. Donohue
Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue is chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.