Michael Swartz / August 4, 2021

The PRO Act and a New Meaning for ‘Worker’

Democrat legislation aims to bolster union and party interests at the expense of working Americans.

With the Senate scheduled to pause for a month next week and the priority being placed on spending trillions of borrowed dollars for “infrastructure,” the fate of many bills may be that of waiting until later this fall. One of those caught in the waiting game was introduced early on in this session of the Democrat-controlled 117th Congress, and the Big Labor-backed PRO (short for Protecting the Right to Organize) Act has already managed to narrowly clear the House on a nearly party-line 225-206 vote. It had an initial Senate hearing last week.

As described by its Congress.gov entry, the PRO Act is a wish list for Big Labor, in particular rewriting the definitions of employee, supervisor, and employer, allowing for so-called “secondary” strikes, and — most importantly — overriding the right-to-work protections that 27 states currently grant their workers. Perhaps that’s why union workers protested in favor of the bill outside their Republican senators’ offices in right-to-work states like North Dakota and West Virginia, among others.

Those who are in the “gig” economy have reason to worry as well. The PRO Act borrows heavily from California’s AB5, which when passed decimated the freelance industry in that state by requiring companies to classify independent contractors as full-time workers. That California bill has since been amended with certain carveouts, much to the chagrin of Uber drivers who pulled a one-day nationwide wildcat strike last week to show support for the PRO Act.

Other entrepreneurs, though, stand opposed because they see franchising as a way to build generational wealth, and that becomes much more difficult if the PRO Act passes. “If you want to be about equal opportunity, it’s going to cause a lot of people not to participate in that wealth creation,” said businesswoman Carolyn Thurston regarding the PRO Act. “It will prevent that — especially people who are women or black. They will now have more things that they have to overcome.”

But PR executive Richard Berman truly hit the nail on the head when it came to the purpose of the PRO Act. “The real issue for unions is the American workforce understanding that promised benefits of union membership are not worth the price of the excess baggage that comes with signing on. Unions are spending member dues in increasingly partisan ways that generally don’t directly benefit workers,” writes Berman. “The priority is no longer wages and working conditions. It’s getting Democrats elected to office, despite member political preferences or opinion on whether their dues should be spent on politics. Beyond supplying campaigns with paid foot soldiers, over the past 10 years, unions have spent more than $1.6 billion in dues to benefit left-wing special interests.”

And as unions strive to attract a different sort of worker than the lunchpail factory worker of old, their pet issues have “evolved” as well. A RealClearInvestigations piece by Bill McMorris revealed that Big Labor is spending as much (if not more) of its efforts in organizing white-collar and non-traditional workers, attracting them with advocacy on “woke” social issues. When the head of the AFL-CIO is putting out a statement entitled, “The AFL-CIO Must Fight for Trans Lives Inside and Outside the Labor Movement,” it’s clear that union priorities are changing and alliances are shifting. Just ask the union workers locked out in the cold by Joe Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline how they feel about trans rights.

But while the progress of the PRO Act seems to have stalled, the deviousness of Democrats has no end. Given the vastness of a 2,700-page infrastructure bill that few have had time to read — not to mention other massive omnibus spending measures that may come down the pike — we may wake up one day and find out the PRO Act was adopted as part of some other “must pass” bill or enacted by a stroke of the feeble-minded Joe Biden’s pen as an executive order. Either way, it will be a day where the dreams of millions who want to use their abilities and hard work to make something of themselves will be dashed by the pursuit of one party for raw political power.

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