The House of Representatives has just done a 180-degree turnaround of federal labor laws after passing the so-called Right to Organize Protection Act (H.R. 842), also known as the Pro Act.
The act presented a debate in the House of Representatives, with a vote of 225 in favor and 206 against, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) celebrating the outcome calling the bill a step to “help combat the accelerating economic inequality that sabotages the middle class, which has worsened over the past several years.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims that the Pro Act will destroy jobs and promises to oppose its passage in the Senate. “The bill would deliberately eliminate basic rights for employers, such as the fundamental right to have standing in representation cases before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB),” the Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.
The Republican Party also raised its voice against the Pro Act. One of them was Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), who stated that behind the act are “interest groups and big-donors” who do not represent the interests of the American people.
What does the Pro Act consist of?
The Pro Act guarantees private-sector employees the right to form unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take actions such as strikes. Among other changes, it prohibits employers from taking actions to discourage unionization and repeals state “right-to-work” laws that allow employees to opt out of paying union dues. Essentially, the bill forces workers to be financially responsible for union costs, regardless of whether they are members or not.
Companies would be prohibited from setting up what they call “captive hearings,” which consist of calling meetings with their employees to hear arguments to dissuade them from unionizing.
The act also allows the National Labor Relations Board to impose fines against companies accused of unfair labor practices, and to mediate labor disputes in the event that employers and unions fail to reach agreement.
The voting system would also be substantially modified, allowing unions to hold elections without any consent from the company where they work, and enabling voting by email or through electronic balloting.
The confidentiality of the vote would also be eliminated under the Pro Act, since, in the event that the union loses a vote, the union can accuse the employer of interfering in the votes and disclose who voted against the projects favored by the union.
The National Labor Relations Board could throw out the election and recognize the union if a majority of the employees signed cards before the election. This process, known as “card check,” takes place out in the open, making workers vulnerable to intimidation, as union organizers and their colleagues could see whether or not employees vote in their favor.
The digital economy is not spared from the Pro Act either, as it allows contractors of digital economy 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 passed by the Senate, the Pro Act would 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 control or direction from the company.
- 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 work performed for the company.
Should the Pro Act pass debate in the Senate, it would impose the guidelines of the California law nationwide, forcing share economy companies to initiate lengthy legal proceedings 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, completely violating attorney-client confidentiality.
In short, the Pro Act completely overturns current labor laws to the benefit of unions, which currently represent less than 10.5% of the U.S. workforce.