"Capital still pats labor on th' back, but on'y with an axe. Labor ray-fuses to be threated as a frind. It wants to be threated as an inimy. It thinks it gets more that way. They are still a happy fam'ly, but it's more like an English fam'ly. They don't speak."--Mr. Dooley
They don't speak, or at least they don't speak loudly. They might only whisper. Which is why so many of us only get word of the PRO Act in Congress after it passes one chamber or appears in the other. Or unless some opponent of the act sends up a flare warning on an email chain. Then the rest of us are forewarned.
The PRO Act--more formally known as the Protect the Right to Organize Act--is supposed to be labor's No. 1 priority now that the nation has a president friendly to Big Labor's cause. The fact is, Joe Biden is a union man, and campaigned as being so.
The Hill reports (as few others have) that the PRO Act is currently being debated in the U.S. Senate. It passed the House of Representatives earlier this year.
But for all its stealth, this bill could upend decades worth of labor laws. And not in insignificant ways. You might be a member of a labor union next year, if this thing is passed and signed.
The PRO Act would effectively repeal the right-to-work protections in most of these several states. A small majority of states, but a majority just the same, have such laws. As of now, workers can opt out of their company's union and not pay union dues, but still get the benefits of union contracts. The PRO Act would change that and "would allow unions to override such laws and collect dues from those who opt out," according to dispatches.
Sean Redmond with The Hill reports: "The PRO Act would force employers to turn over to union organizers employees' personal information, such as home and cell phone numbers and personal email addresses, without their consent. Even worse, the bill places no restriction on how unions may use that information or with whom they may share it."
The act would also bring back an oldie but goodie from the past few years of union politics--card check! Oh, how the union bosses would love to get this thing on the books. Instead of secret ballot elections, a "card check" rule would allow union bosses to pass around cards for employees to sign, for the record, and for all union bosses to see. Better for the bosses to have everybody's name on the good or bad lists, than to have a pesky secret-ballot election.
The PRO Act version passed by the House would also allow gig workers (such as workers at Uber and Lyft) to form unions, classifying them as employees of those businesses instead of contractors. And mandatory meetings by businesses to lobby against unions--or to explain how a union might harm its business model--would be illegal.
Many Americans wouldn't oppose this act only as a knee-jerk reaction to union backing, but because it might harm their jobs and pocketbooks. Back in March, when the House made its preference known, Henry Olsen at The Washington Post made a good case against the PRO Act, and against strengthening American union hands: "Global free trade means U.S.-based companies have to compete against firms from other countries for consumers' dollars. Unions often demand staffing rules and wage packages that effectively undercut those firms' ability to compete. This simple fact is one of the major reasons unionization rates at U.S. companies have declined so much in recent decades.
"Without measures to limit immigration and global trade, the PRO Act would likely shift jobs elsewhere, or encourage firms to replace U.S.-born workers with immigrants who would find nonunion wages quite attractive."
If the PRO Act was pro-worker, and not just pro-union, we'd expect to hear more about it, from louder sources. But then, if that happened, more Americans might know what's in the bill. And react.
And we don't imagine that would be good for the bill.