Last week, as the public focused on the most recent COVID relief bill, the U.S. House of Representatives recently approved a measure that would upend decades of established labor law in order to fulfill Big Labor’s lengthy anti-employer legislative wish list. And ironically – contrary to media coverage of the bill and union talking points – the proposal – known as the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act – actually weakens workers’ rights in addition to creating further challenges for employers.
For example, workers should have a basic expectation that private, personal contact information given to their employers – including their cell phone number or home address – is kept confidential. The PRO Act, however, throws that reasonable expectation out the window by forcing employers to turn workers’ personal contact information over to unions – even if employees object.
Contrary to media coverage of the bill and union talking points – the proposal actually weakens workers’ rights in addition to creating further challenges for employers.
This legislation also undermines the right to a private ballot during union elections – thereby inviting uncomfortable or even dangerous situations for workers. Imagine being confronted at work by a group of union supporters and asked to sign a union certification card. Or, now that they have your personal address, hearing a knock on the door at dinnertime and finding a group of organizers asking you to sign. The law should not allow this type of behavior, let alone encourage it. This bill even inhibits workers from decertifying a union they grow opposed to.
Make no mistake, these proposed changes are anti-worker. The PRO Act exposes the schism between unions and workers – unions are all too comfortable diminishing worker rights in order to enhance their own power and influence.
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This legislation also creates further challenges for employers. If enacted into law, it will stifle employers’ right to communicate with their workforce during union elections and encourages unfair lawsuits – placing further strain on an already overburdened civil justice system and increasing costs by businesses. It would also force an unrealistic standard for hiring independent contractors that will hurt free-lancers and gig workers. A growing number of people, including students and part-time workers, are embracing the gig economy because of the ability to set their own hours and earn money providing services to multiple employers. Right on cue, as unions perceive economic individualism and entrepreneurship they treat it as a threat and direct their legislative allies to take it down.
In a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, 97 percent of respondents said the PRO Act would negatively impact operations and damage relationships with workers. It should be a red flag that voters in California – arguably one of, if not the most, liberal state in the nation – repealed a similar proposal that was enacted on the state level due to the impact it had on jobs and the economy.
Laws that govern the workplace and labor relations, including union elections, should strive to balance the interests of all stakeholders. The PRO Act, however, is not your typical “labor reform” – this is a radical power grab that would significantly stack the deck in favor of Big Labor.
It should be a red flag that voters in California – arguably one of, if not the most, liberal state in the nation – repealed a similar proposal that was enacted on the state level due to the impact it had on jobs and the economy.
And what about the current system does Big Labor find objectionable? Employers must already follow strict rules leading up to and during union elections. And according to the an article from Bloomberg Law, unions won 72.2 percent of mail-ballot elections and 70.5 percent of manual elections last year though mid-October; results which “are consistent with a union win rate of 71.9 percent for the representation elections conducted from 2015-2019.” With this kind of track record, such a drastic measure hardly seems necessary – especially when it will have the effect of hurting an already-struggling employer community and lead to intimidation of skeptical or hesitant workers.
As businesses and workers continue to reel from the impacts of the pandemic, House passage of the PRO Act is just one more blow to an already struggling economy. On behalf of the state’s broad based business community, the PA Chamber urges the Senate to dismiss this misguided legislation.
Gene Barr is the president and CEO of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry