Committee Explores Job Crushing Legislation: PRO Act Makes its Unwanted Senate Appearance

Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will convene for a hearing to discuss the “Protecting the Right to Organize Act,” otherwise known as the PRO Act. The Senate hearing will feature two workers’ rights lawyers, a worker, and a small business owner to discuss the bill's costs (of which there are many) and potential benefits (which are minimal). If the HELP Committee actually wants to help Americans get better jobs and higher wages, they are looking at the wrong proposal to accomplish those goals. To ensure the continued success ofAmerican workers and job creators, it is crucial that Senators focus on the real world costs should this disastrous legislation become law.

The PRO Act has flown under the radar outside of the Washington beltway, but might be the top priority for labor unions and anti-business politicians. This harmful proposal would radically change U.S. labor laws to juice the muscle of big labor unions at the expense of workers and job creators. NTU strongly opposed this legislation when it was narrowly approved out of the House earlier this year. Even though Senate rules make passage of the PRO Act unlikely, President Biden is committed to its enactment as it was included in his American Jobs Plan, so taxpayers should be ready for any strategy the majority may try to employ to get it passed.

The PRO Act is a Frankenstein's monster of bad policies that would increase the coercive power of big labor unions under the guise of being pro-worker. Specifically, this legislation imposes California's disastrous independent contractor test, undermines worker freedom and privacy during unionization drives, and threatens an employer’s ability to end worker strikes. Rep. Virginia Foxx, Ranking Member of the House Education and Labor Committee summarized the PRO Act perfectly: this legislation “redraws the playing field to favor union bosses sends a clear message: House Democrats’ allegiance is with Big Labor, not workers or small businesses.”

Of the many dubious provisions in the PRO Act, perhaps the most economically damaging would be repealing right-to-work laws, which provide workers the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union in the workplace. A majority of U.S. states have passed laws that allow workers to opt out of paying union dues if they desire, ensuring that union participation is voluntary and not coerced. According to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, the rate of job growth was two times higher in right-to-work states between 2008 and 2018 than in states where unionization was mandatory as a condition of employment.

Allowing for greater worker freedoms is sound economic policy, but Right-to-Work is also about protecting basic individual rights. Americans in Right-to-Work states maintain their ability to join unions, but they also are given the ability to decline membership without fear of being penalized. This is consistent with one of our fundamental Constitutional rights: freedom of association. 

Additionally, the PRO Act would subject workers nationwide to California’s controversial “ABC” test in Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) to determine if a worker is an employee or a contractor. Much like the PRO Act, AB 5 was billed as a win for workers, but in reality the law wreaked havoc on independent contractors. In realistic terms, the misguided regulations restrain workers’ freedom by applying an antiquated employment status model that fails to take into account innovative developments in the workplace. Numerous employers have pointed to this law’s onerous rules as a reason for thousands of layoffs. Under the California approach, mimicked in the PRO Act, freelancers that previously enjoyed the freedom and empowerment of independent contracting could find themselves unemployed.

If this standard is enacted on a national level, hundreds of thousands of workers could find themselves out of a job and onto the unemployment line.

The PRO Act would also threaten worker privacy and lead to more union coercion. This proposal would bring back “card check,” a dangerous policy that effectively ends the secret ballot of union elections. That, coupled with a requirement that workers’ personal home and work contact information be shared with a union, could lead to the intimidation and harassment of workers. Finally, this bill would increase the likelihood of arm-twisting, boycotts and picketing by legalizing secondary boycotts against any employer and bans employers from hiring temporary workers during a strike.

It’s clear the PRO Act isn’t about PROtecting workers from their employers or helping Americans find work - it is in fact one of the most overreaching labor bills ever passed by the United States House of Representatives. This legislation, in conjunction with the renewed push to enact a $15 minimum wage, would throw America’s labor market into a tailspin and make it that much harder for businesses to expand their workforce in the coming years. Americans are beginning to get back to work, but if the PRO Act along with a $15 minimum wage become law, many people won’t have a job to go back to. 

The U.S. Senate is the last stand for worker freedom and privacy, and it is disappointing, but not surprising that one of its committees would lend time to such a disastrous proposal. Fewer government mandates, not more, will bring about a faster, stronger economic recovery.