Undoing Decades of Worker and Employer Freedoms in One Fell Swoop

Have you heard about the PRO Act (HR 842)? I hadn’t either until this past weekend when I got an email from Tracie Sharp, President and CEO at the State Policy Network, about it. Tracie shared that:

“The 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 nationwide, which this Network has fought to preserve and spread for decades in the states. As my colleague Chantal Lovell wrote for Inside Sources, ‘It would virtually eliminate the ability of people to work as independent contractors and freelancers by codifying nationwide the most destructive parts of California’s sordid Assembly Bill 5 law.’”

Whoah. Can there really be this sweeping of a labor law that throws out the baby with the bath water?

Apparently, yes. I asked Mark Mix, who is President of the Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, what effect the PRO Act might have on workers and employers. Here’s his quick summary:

“The PRO Act is everything union officials have thought of to increase their power over workers and capital since 1947 all rolled into one piece of legislation.

Here’s what it does:

  1. Repeals all state Right to Work laws and makes it impossible to pass any in the future.
  2. Includes new form of card-check (no secret ballot) union certification
  3. Allows government ‘arbitrators’ to impose first contracts on employees and employers after a short initial bargaining period.
  4. Imports the AB 5 debacle from California – so-called ABC test – wiping out gig and freelancers as independent contractors: think Uber and Lyft.
  5. Mandates that employers cannot hire replacement workers during an economic strike (over wages) adding that prohibition to the current law that says employers cannot replace workers during an unfair labor practice strike (contract dispute).  So, union officials can call any strike they desire and win every strike they call because employers would not be able to operate during a strike.
  6. Imposes large civil penalties on small businesses of up to $100,000 for allegations of unfair labor practices.
  7. Employers must hand over employee’s private information including home address, cellphone and landline numbers, personal email address – without employee permission.
  8. Allows secondary boycotts which, currently illegal, allow union militants to attack customers and suppliers of a targeted employer.  Think bakery gets no flour.
  9. Allows illegal immigrants to sue employers

Shall I go on?

Safe to say this is the single most aggressive attack on workers and employers since the 1935 Wagner Act passed establishing federal control over the private sector.”

Whoah, again. The PRO Act is tantamount to the federal government inserting itself between all employers and employees in the private sector. Does Congress really have the power and authority to do this? It apparently thinks so as the House passed the PRO Act on March 9th by a vote of 225-209. There were no hearings. There was no testimony. It was brought straight to the floor.

Read over that list from Mark Mix one more time and think about what this means for your own situation, whether you are an employer or an employee. Our Constitution protects our right to free association, and many people from both the labor and business sides have fought for years to protect our economic freedom. It’s all being undone in one fell swoop—this is a pretty fundamental rewriting of our labor laws, as Tracie Sharp correctly noted.