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House to Vote on PRO Act This Week

The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The legislation’s goal is to increase union membership. It has significant negative tradeoffs for workers, as my former CEI colleague Trey Kovacs and several others pointed out in a recent paper. Specifically, the bill would:
  • Essentially nullifies 28 states’ right to work laws. In these states, workers at a unionized workplace may choose whether or not they want the union to represent them. The PRO Act would require non-union workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment, even when they opt out of union representation.
  • Force employers to provide unions with employees’ personal information, including home addresses, working hours, phone numbers, and email addresses. Unions have already used such information before to pressure workers to support unionization campaigns. As Kovacs writes: “In one example, the Communication Workers of America Local 1103 used a workers’ personal data to sign her up for unwanted magazine subscriptions and consumer products. She was billed thousands of dollars and had to spend hours each day unsubscribing herself.”
  • Codify “card-check” organizing, which was abused during an organizing drive at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant. Eight workers publicly complained that the union told them the cards they were asked to sign were not votes in favor of unionization. The union later used those cards as proof that workers wanted to unionize the plant. In another incident, an organizer for the United Steelworkers was asked to threaten migrant workers by reporting them to immigration officials if they did not support unionizing their workplace. The organizer quit rather than follow orders. The PRO Act, by codifying card check, along with the provision for mandatory disclosure of workers’ personal information to unions, would make such abuses much easier to carry out.
  • Change the definition of terms such as “joint employer” to make it easier to unionize contract workers and franchises. Changes to the definition of “employee” would add restrictions and reduce workplace flexibility so more workers become union-eligible, even if the affected workers do not want those restrictions.

While the PRO Act will likely pass the House, the Senate is unlikely to consider the bill. But as essentially a wish-list item for a major political constituency, some version of the PRO Act will likely be reintroduced when the 117th Congress convenes next January.