This article by Glenn Hamer originally appeared in San Antonio Express-News March 24, 2021. (Photo by Noah Berger)
At a time when Congress should be looking for ways to help the American worker, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 842, known as the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, which would have a devastating impact on our economy.
While some in Congress will claim this bill protects workers, it does anything but that. From stripping workers of their independent contractor status to forcing them to pay dues to a union they do not support, the PRO Act is bad for the American worker and bad for the American economy.
One of the miracles of the 21st century has been the rise of the gig economy and the gig worker. From Uber and Lyft drivers to DoorDash runners, this economy has allowed millions of Americans to become their own boss and set their own schedule as independent contractors. It has also afforded people additional income as they seek to create a better life for themselves and their families.
Seventy percent of gig workers are independent contractors by their own choice, the ADP Research Institute said in a February report.
Unfortunately, the PRO Act would seek to eliminate the gig economy and deprive hardworking Americans of the right to earn a paycheck. The bill would strip these workers of their independent contractor status and force them into joining unions and paying union dues, regardless of their support for unionization.
Commentary: A year later, COVID has changed the global economy
Texas’ economy has experienced such rapid growth in part because of its “right-to-work” laws, which protect workers who refuse to pay union dues from being fired, and protect them from intimidation and coercion into joining a union. This bill would strip workers of that right by eliminating these laws.
The bill also would eliminate private ballots in union elections. This has the potential to lead to workplace harassment of employees who vote against union-backed measures by making their votes known to union bosses and their fellow workers.
It also would harm employers by taking away their rights. It does not allow an employer to keep its business operating during a strike. Furthermore, it would impose mandatory union contracts if an employer and union do not come to an agreement, essentially taking away an employer’s bargaining power.
While this bill has passed the House, there is still a chance to stop it in the Senate, and the Texas Association of Business expects both senators from Texas will fight against it. Texas workers should also take some solace in the fact that every Texas congressional Republican — as well as Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat, voted against this disastrous bill and are putting their interests first.
As vaccines become readily available and people get back to normal, the economy must rebound so Americans can put food on their tables and create a better future for their families. If Congress wants to be a partner in that effort, it should stop the PRO Act dead in its tracks.
Instead, it should start focusing on issues that will lead to an economic recovery that benefits all Americans. This includes reducing the regulatory burden on businesses and investing in infrastructure and workforce development for a 21st-century economy.
Glenn Hamer is CEO of the Texas Association of Business.