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Three ways the PRO Act would violate workers’ rights

Mar 31, 2021 by AFP

Supporters of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or the PRO Act, claim that passing this legislation is necessary to protect the rights of Americans workers. They contend that independent contractors, including freelancers and gig workers, are suffering a crisis in the workforce and are being exploited by their clients.

These contentions couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no crisis in independent contracting, but the PRO Act would create one. It would erode many of the rights of workers across the country — principally for the benefit of union leaders — including:

  • The right to provide one’s services as an independent contractor.
  • The right to work free of union coercion.
  • Workers’ privacy and representation rights, both union and non-union.

Here’s how the PRO Act would violate those rights.

The PRO Act violates the right of workers to remain independent

Like California’s Assembly Bill 5, which reclassified countless independent contractors and left many jobless, the PRO Act would use what is called an ABC test, a tool used by regulators to determine whether a worker should be pushed out of independent contracting and forced into a traditional employment arrangement.

The PRO Act’s ABC test would be interpreted by the National Labor Relations Board, in largely arbitrary fashion.

Here’s how it could work:

An independent contractor approaches his client for a contract renewal. With the PRO Act now law, his client worries that, by misclassifying the worker as an independent contractor — a determination subject to the nebulous criteria of the ABC test — his business could incur a massive fine of $50,000 for each violation.

The client would have two choices. He could either:

  1. Hire the worker as an independent contractor, not knowing whether this falls afoul of the ABC test.
  2. Hire the worker as an employee under a W-2 position, if he can afford it.

More than likely, the client will simply decide that the risk of violating federal law, and incurring a huge fine, is too high. He may also find that he can’t afford to place the worker on payroll.

So, the client will likely decide to cut business with the worker entirely. Other companies could similarly blacklist independent contractors.

This is precisely what happened in California. There is no reason to believe the PRO Act couldn’t replicate those results at a national level.

The PRO Act violates the right to work, free of union coercion

Twenty-seven states have right-to-work laws on the books, which maintain that workers should have the free and fair choice to join a union. In other words, these states hold that union membership should be voluntary, not mandatory.

The PRO Act would upend every single right-to-work law, even those laws enshrined in state constitutions. Many workers would no longer have the freedom to join a union. Rather, they would have an obligation to join, and their refusal would mean that they couldn’t work at all.

This is a contraction of workers’ rights.

Moreover, it would hurt workers economically. Right-to-work states usually experience faster manufacturing and overall job growth and higher disposable and overall cost of living adjusted incomes.

Only union leaders, who could then demand dues from their new members, stand to benefit from this policy.

A violation of worker privacy and representation rights, union and non-union alike

The PRO Act would go further in its efforts to push workers into unions. It would force employers to hand over the personal information of their employees — including cellphone numbers and email addresses — to union organizers.

Most people would be hesitant hand out their private information to strangers, but the PRO Act would require it under federal law, exposing countless workers to harassment and intimidation.

The bill wouldn’t be much kinder to union workers. It would strip them of their ability to vote on a union contract when binding arbitration is used and, for workers interested in unionizing, it would potentially rob them of the ability to vote by secret ballot and vote for a new union or non-union representation for an extended period of time.

The PRO Act would harm countless American workers, union and non-union alike. Tell your lawmakers in Congress to reject this unfair bill.