Private sector workers in most states now live under a right-to-work law. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision, so do public sector workers. But a powerful member of Congress wants to overturn all that.
In May, Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia, introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2019. Scott chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, which has held two hearings on the act.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, urged the committee to pass the act, saying: “Imagine that Congress refused to recognize your rightful election. And then imagine that once you were finally seated, you were denied the basic rights and responsibilities that come with the office.”
The bill Trumka supports, though, does the very thing he complains about. The PRO Act would strip away the sovereign actions of a majority of states in one fell swoop. A majority of states — 27, so far — have decided to pass right-to-work legislation. The PRO Act would overturn these state laws, prohibiting right-to-work laws in the private sector.
The PRO Act also would effectively replace the secret ballot for a back-door version of card-check. Secret ballot elections are a bedrock principle of our democracy.
The PRO Act would give more power to the National Labor Relations Board, which conducts certification elections. It would allow the NLRB to declare that an employer wrongfully interfered with a secret ballot election. If the employer could then not prove that it didn’t wrongfully interfere, the board could use petitions or authorization cards to certify the union. But for the employee, being given the opportunity to sign a card is not the same as the right to vote one’s conscience free and clear of intimidation in a voting booth.
The PRO Act would severely limit employer’s ability to talk with employees about what unionization may cause. Employers should, though, be able to have open and honest dialogue with their employees about the burdens that unions can impose.
While the PRO Act prohibits certain employer-employee communications, it does a favor for unions, guaranteeing them more access to employee information and curtailing employees' privacy. It requires employers to give over to unions employees’ names, home addresses, work locations, job classifications, home phone numbers, and personal email addresses. There is nothing in the act which prohibits the unions from turning around and giving away or selling the private contact information of workers.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy will continue the fight to expand the freedom of workers in Michigan and across the nation. No one should be forced to join or pay a union against their will. The freedom to associate or disassociate must be protected in Michigan and nationally. The PRO Act is a brazenly anti-democratic, anti-worker, and anti-freedom piece of legislation.