The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is making its way through Congress and, if approved, would fundamentally change the US economy and the way Americans work.
The legislation is getting headlines for nationalizing the California law that put thousands of independent contractors and gig workers out of a job. But, harmful as that is, it’s far from the worst part of the PRO Act. This legislation profoundly rewrites American labor law, eliminates the balance of power that currently exists between unions and businesses, and would ban right-to-work laws across the country.
These are the twelve ways the PRO Act would hurt American workers and businesses:
The PRO Act would strip states of their ability to protect private-sector workers from being fired for not paying a union. A majority of states have these laws on the books, giving workers a choice in whether or not they want to belong to or pay a union. Under the PRO Act, private-sector workers could be forced to pay union fees to keep their jobs.
Note: Public-sector employees would still enjoy right-to-work protections due to the US Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case.
The PRO Act would implement California’s AB5 law nationwide. As a result, tens of millions of independent workers will be at risk of losing their businesses or being forced into untenable work arrangements. The legislation would consider all workers, even those who currently make their living as contractors, as full-fledged employees unless they can satisfy a stringent three-pronged test, known as the ABC Test:
And, it would more closely tie them to the decisions and liability of their corporate counterparts. The PRO Act would re-classify many small businesses that franchise or contract with larger companies as “joint-employers,” making both businesses liable for employment decisions of the other. This means a corporation could be sued for the actions of a mom-and-pop franchise, which will lead the large corporations to exert more control over franchisees. Similarly, companies that merely do regular business with each other (such as a janitorial service that cleans a department store) would also be tied together and would be responsible for each other’s actions.
Striking workers would immediately need to be rehired to their old position once the strike ends. This means businesses could find it extremely difficult to keep the doors open during labor disputes, ultimately hurting those employed there.
Currently, striking is only allowed of businesses that have some involvement with a labor union, but the PRO Act would allow striking of completely neutral parties. For example, if a union is involved in a dispute with an auto manufacturer, it could also strike in front of a parts supplier that provides material to the manufacture, even though the supplier has no involvement with or way to solve the dispute.
Employees’ secret ballot votes could be thrown out if a union claims an employer interfered with an organizing election that the union lost and an employer could not prove they were innocent. The National Labor Relations Board could throw out the election and recognize the union if a majority of employees signed cards before the election. This process, known as “card check,” takes place out in the open, making workers vulnerable to intimidation, as the union organizers and their colleagues would be able to see how they vote.
During an organizing election, unions would have access to employees’ personal cell phone numbers and home and email addresses. Employees would not be able to prevent the company from distributing this information.
This means workers would be robbed of the ability to receive important information about what unionization might mean for their workplace. Business owners may not be aware of organizing attempts until they take place and may have less than three weeks to respond.
The PRO Act would force employers to disclose if they receive legal advice from attorneys regarding unionization issues. The attorney would also be required to disclose if they were paid for this consultation.
The PRO Act removes the ability of companies and workers to settle certain employment disputes outside court through a voluntary and mutually agreed-upon arbitration process. However, another part of the PRO Act says that if a union contract is not reached quickly enough, a government-appointed arbitrator would determine the contract and both parties would be forced to accept it, even if one party never agreed to arbitration. Unlike employees and the business owner, the arbitrator will not be as familiar with the company or its employees.
The PRO Act would require business owners to make their equipment available to employees for union business. Employers could not limit the use of their computers, email systems, phone lines, and other equipment.
Under the PRO Act, job creators would be subject to heavy civil penalties, ranging from $500 to $100,000. The fines could be imposed on the business or on the individuals at the company. The Act imposes no such penalties on unions who violate the law.
This resource was developed in partnership with the Institute for the American Worker.
Brief Explainer: 12 Ways the PRO Act Will Hurt American Workers
State Policy Network, Institute for the American Worker
Full Explainer: What is the PRO act?
State Policy Network, Institute for the American Worker
The PRO Act: Federal Legislation That Will Upend America’s Labor Laws
State Policy Network
The PRO Act / Pushbutton Unionism Bill: A Union Boss Wish List
National Right to Work Committee
PRO Act Limits “Gig Economy” Workers’ Choices, Flexibility
State Policy Network at InsideSources
Town Hall: PRO Act Will Harm Contractors and Consumers
American Consumer Institute
Independent Contractors: Hear real stories of workers impacted by job-killing regulations.
Independent Women’s Forum
The ‘worst bill in Congress’ is back
National Retail Federation
Sign up for our newsletter
New articles are posted daily to SPN.org — stay in the know by signing up today.