The “Protecting the Right to Organize Act”, also known as the PRO Act, might be included in President Biden’s infrastructure plan. Leftist groups such as the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party have endorsed the proposal, calling registered voters in states with moderate Democratic senators to lobby for the needed votes.
If the PRO Act is included within the infrastructure plan and is planned to go through the reconciliation procedure, it is not unlikely to meet the same fate as the proposal to include raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in the stimulus plan.
Mitch McConnel and the Republican Party stated in a press conference that they would oppose Biden’s infrastructure plan. In this sense, the Senate Minority Leader affirmed that Biden’s plan “is the wrong path.”
For McConnell: “Before the pandemic, we had the best economy in 50 years. We should not raise taxes under the guise of an infrastructure bill and send our economy in the wrong direction.”
The inclusion of the PRO Act will only bring fierce opposition from the Republican Party and is likely to prevent many moderate Democrats from voting in favor of the infrastructure plan.
What does the Pro Act say?
The PRO Act guarantees private-sector employees the right to organize unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take actions such as strikes. In addition, the Act prohibits employers from intervening to prevent unionization and overrides state “right-to-work” laws, which would force all employees to pay certain dues required by unions for their funding and maintenance, even if workers do not wish to be part of or contribute to the union.
The PRO Act also prohibits companies from engaging in “captive hearings,” which means that they will no longer be able to convene meetings with employees to reach agreements that would dissuade them from unionizing.
Under the PRO Act, the National Labor Relations Board could fine companies accused of “unfair labor practices” and mediate disputes if employers and unions fail to reach an agreement.
The voting system would also be substantially modified since it would allow unions to hold elections without the consent of the company in which they work and would also enable voting by email or through electronic ballots.
On the other hand, the confidentiality of the vote would be eliminated under the PRO Act, since, in case the union loses an election, it can accuse the employer of interfering in the votes and reveal who voted against the projects favored by the union.
Similarly, the National Labor Relations Board could throw out the election and recognize the union’s decision if a majority of employees sign the ballots before voting. This process, known as “ballot control,” results in workers being vulnerable to intimidation, as unions could review whether to vote for or against their measures.
The digital economy would not be safe from the PRO Act either
The PRO Act would also regulate the digital economy practices, as it would allow contractors of these types of companies, such as Uber or Door Dash, to unionize if they meet certain conditions, as it would consider these companies as employers and not merely independent service contractors.
If the PRO Act is passed, it will use the same guidelines as the California law known as A.B.5 to determine whether app company contractors can be considered employees.
A.B.5 assumes that contractors are employees of app companies unless the app companies succeed in proving under a test called ABC that:
- The contractor is free to perform services without company control or direction.
- The work the contractor is performing is outside the company’s business focus.
- The contractor is customarily engaged in an independently established occupation or business of the same nature as the company’s work.
In the event that the PRO Act passes debate in the Senate, the guidelines of the California law would be imposed nationwide, which would force sharing economy companies (such as Uber, for example) to initiate lengthy legal processes to determine whether their users are contractors or employees.
On top of that, the PRO Act forces employers to disclose whether they have received unionization legal advice in the event of a dispute between the union and the company, an action that would completely violate attorney-client confidentiality.
Ultimately, the PRO Act creates a total change in current labor laws and purely benefits the strength of the unions, which at the moment represents less than 10.5% of the U.S. workforce.