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House Committee Advances PRO Act, Giving Less Rights to Union Workers

Date: October 1, 2019

The House Committee on Education and Labor passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474) on Sept. 25, which, according to committee Chairman Bobby Scott, is designed, “to ensure American workers can organize and negotiate for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions.”

According to a factsheet published by the committee, the PRO Act serves three core functions:

  • To bolster remedies and punishing violations of workers’ rights
  • To strengthen workers’ right to stand together and negotiate for better working conditions
  • To restore fairness to an economy that is rigged against workers

While the act does enact additional protections for union workers, such as allowing, “the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to assess monetary penalties for each violation in which a worker is wrongfully terminated or suffers serious economic harm,” it also strips union workers of certain rights. MEMA openly objected to several provisions, including:

  • Removal of a secret ballot for union elections, stripping employees of their rights to vote privately and in secret when choosing whether to unionize.
  • Elimination of Right-to-Work provisions across the country, including in states that have passed Right-to- Work laws.
  • Interference with attorney-client confidentiality, increasing reporting requirements for employers and their legal counsel retained for labor and workforce issues. This requirement is unnecessary and ignores the long-standing nature of confidentiality between a company and its legal counsel.
  • Language codifying the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) joint employment standard that strips workers of their right to private voting and secret ballots in union elections. This standard maintains that any two (or more) companies are joint employers if the primary employer has “indirect or potential control” of contract employees. This vague and uncertain standard increases employer liability for subcontractors and vendors.

“The motor vehicle supplier industry has long had a balanced and productive relationship between employers and employees with respect to labor and workforce rules. However, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474) would shift that balance, resulting in greater costs imposed on suppliers, impacting their ability to manage their workforce and provide jobs,” MEMA said in a letter sent in May to Reps. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), who lead the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions within the Committee on Education and Labor.

“Instead, MEMA encourages Congress to work with all relevant stakeholders − including employers, unions, and other stakeholders − to implement reforms that protect employee and employer rights while encouraging economic growth,” the organization stated.

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