Opinion

WILFORD: House Democrats Push Anti-Worker Labor Law Overhaul

Andrew Wilford National Taxpayers' Union Foundation
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The House is expected to vote soon on legislation that would have massive implications for labor law across the country. Should it ever become law, this legislation would harm workers and businesses alike in more ways than one.

H.R. 2474, or the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, reads like a hastily cobbled together union wishlist. Jumping from one dangerous policy proposal to another, the PRO Act lumps together numerous bad ideas into one Frankenstein’s monster.

One such bad idea the PRO Act enshrines in federal law is a pre-empting of state right-to-work laws. A majority of U.S. states have passed laws that allow workers to opt out of paying union dues if they desire, ensuring that union participation is voluntary and not coerced.

Under the PRO Act, however, paying union dues would be mandatory as a condition of employment in workplaces with a union. Rather than having to earn workers’ dues, union bosses would become legally entitled to them. That may enrich unions, but it certainly would not empower workers.

Another provision of the PRO Act would harm entrepreneurship. A 2015 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision determined that national brands are responsible for labor law violations that franchise businesses using their brands commit. That led to a 93 percent jump in litigation against franchisors — in turn making the practice of selling franchise rights to entrepreneurs far less attractive to national brands.

The harmful effects this has had on small business led the NLRB under President Trump to begin the process of overturning this decision. The PRO Act would go the other direction by enshrining it in federal law, pushing national brands away from empowering local entrepreneurs and towards asserting more direct control over chain outlets.

The PRO Act would also be devastating to independent contractors. Many freelancers are furious with California’s legislature for its decision to pass Assembly Bill 5, a bill that severely limited “freelancing” and other part-time work by forcing businesses to treat more people as full-time employees, even if that classification doesn’t fit their circumstances. This was done despite widespread outrage and warnings that it would put freelancers out of work.

Evidently, House Democrats have decided to learn all the wrong lessons from California’s debacle. The PRO Act would subject workers nationwide to the same test that California now uses to determine employment classification. In truth, it is less of a “test” and more of a mandate that workers in certain industries operate under the traditional “employee” model or none at all. Unfortunately, oftentimes businesses that can afford to pay a freelancer sporadically cannot afford to offer 40 hours a week, benefits, and managerial oversight.

Under the California approach mimicked in the PRO Act, freelancers that previously enjoyed the freedom and empowerment of independent contracting could find themselves out of a job. Thanks for the help!

While these are the major concerns with the PRO Act, they’re not the only ones. The PRO Act could also potentially put workers’ private information at risk by giving their union access to their addresses, phone numbers, job classification, and more. This could lead to unions selling this information for profit, or using this information to harass the workers they represent. These concerns, taken together, are the reason why more than 60 groups representing consumers and taxpayers, including the National Taxpayers Union, signed on to a letter opposing the PRO Act. The House should be certain to protect businesses and workers alike by setting aside the PRO Act.

Andrew Wilford (@PolicyWilford) is a policy analyst with the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fiscal policy analysis and education at all levels of government.