UPDATE: The PRO Act Reemerges in the Pork of the Infrastructure Bill
By now, you’ve probably heard of the much-anticipated $2.25 trillion infrastructure package, termed the American Jobs Plan, that President Joe Biden unveiled in early April. It was introduced with much fanfare, mostly because both Republicans and Democrats agree that infrastructure across the nation could use an overhaul. Outdated bridges with possible structural deficiencies worry civil engineers, and interstate congestion costs the economy $120 billion per year, according to engineer and historian Henry Petroski. Billions of dollars every year are lost to flight delays and crowded airports causing missed connections. Overall, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives American infrastructure a C-minus grade.
There’s plenty of productive debate to be had around policy differences within the bill. How large should it be, and how much should it cost? What qualifies as “infrastructure,” and why? But one piece of the infrastructure bill – one might call it “pork” – is simply a revamp of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Since the PRO Act may not have a path to become law on its own, the Biden administration snuck this big union priority into a bill that would normally receive overwhelming bipartisan support.
As we’ve discussed, the PRO Act would:
- Destroy 27 states’ right-to-work laws, which give workers the freedom to choose whether or not to pay union dues at private companies. (People who work in the public sector already have the freedom not to join unions or pay union dues, thanks to Janus v. AFSCME.)
- Overrule state law. Many right-to-work states have enshrined the law in their state constitutions – but in a vigorous assault on federalism, the PRO Act would simply overrule state law and eliminate right-to-work laws.
- Wipe out the income of millions of American workers who choose to freelance or work as independent contractors. The PRO Act would impose the California-style “ABC Test” nationally, making it almost impossible for many workers to qualify as independent contractors (ICs).
- Contradict the will of the vast majority of freelancers and “gig” economy workers. Despite the flexibility of freelancing, and despite the fact that nearly 80% of ICs prefer their situation to full-time regular employment, the PRO Act would eliminate or significantly limit their options.
- Provide new openings for harassment and intimidation from union leaders. The PRO Act would force employers to hand over employees’ contact information, including their home addresses and cell phone numbers, to unions. Union leaders already have extensive leeway in communicating with employees; the PRO Act would allow them to move their tactics to employees’ homes.
- Repeal the ban on secondary boycotts, allowing unions to harass any company that does business with a company where a union is trying to organize. The PRO Act would expand pickets, boycotts, and harassment against a new universe of companies that are only tangentially associated with the union’s target.
- Stack the deck against employers and employees in favor of unions. The PRO Act would limit conversations between unions and employers, stifle education opportunities, and prevent employers from challenging union practices.
By inserting the PRO Act into the infrastructure bill, Congress and the Biden administration are tacitly conceding it doesn’t have the support of the American people or the Congressional leaders who represent them. To preserve the overwhelming bipartisan support for improving roads, bridges, and internet access, and to pass a much-needed infrastructure bill, Congressional leaders and the Biden administration must remove the job-killing union handouts in the PRO Act from the American Jobs Plan.