Brian Sampson is president of the Associated Builders & Contractors, Empire State Chapter.
Rep. John Katko was one of five House Republicans, and 225 total members of the House, to vote in favor of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. While the PRO Act is being praised as a major victory for labor and workers’ rights, this policy — and Katko’s vote in favor of it — will actually reduce workers’ rights.
Take for example the Right-to-Work laws in effect in 27 states, New York state being one of them. These laws, supported by the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA), protect employees from being coerced into joining or paying dues to a union as a condition of their employment. Simply put, if an employee doesn’t want to be part of the local labor union, their choice is protected with the force of law. Workers can say goodbye to the freedom of choice if the PRO Act becomes law as it permits “fair share agreements” that will require those workers to contribute fees to a labor organization for services. This policy clearly benefits labor unions.
Another “fun” detail about the PRO Act is that it will effectively end workers’ ability to be employed as an independent contractor. The federal government chose to exclude independent contractors from collective bargaining under the NRLA. Through its use of the “ABC Test,” the PRO Act will reclassify millions of independent contractors as employees, and thereby subject to union representation. In other words, this policy will force employers to choose between axing their relationships with independent contractors or converting them to full employees — and paying the costs that go along with that — regardless of the wishes of contractors.
The number of independent contractors has been on the rise in the U.S. since the arrival of ride sharing and food delivery companies. Over the last year, the Covid-19 pandemic has only increased that number across multiple industries. The ability to work as an independent contractor in this country is clearly something the American people want. “Oh well” for them, right? Thank the PRO Act and the members of Congress who supported it for that.
Whether or not you support the idea of labor unions, we all know how powerful they are, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. What is the saying that has been used, time and again, over the last several years with regards to disgraced legislators? “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The PRO Act will only add to the power of labor unions and their potentially coercive tactics by requiring employers to turn over the personal contact information of their employees to union organizers in advance of any election. This allows unions access to workers via phone, personal email and at home. More overzealous or “enthusiastic” union organizers can exploit that information and now harass a worker at home, regardless of their possible preference not to associate with the union.