Employer Groups Denounce House Passage of Labor Bill

Originally published by: Construction DiveMarch 10, 2021

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Thai Phi Le/Construction Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The House of Representatives approved the Protecting the Right to Organize Act late Tuesday night, on a 225-206 vote that saw five Republicans joining Democrats in favor. The PRO Act would amend aspects of the National Labor Relations Act and grant workers more benefits and rights, while changing how unions and employers collectively bargain.
  • Employer groups, including Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors of America, have long opposed the measure and ones similar to it. “The broader impact of the PRO Act, should it be enacted, is a new era of labor unrest that will stifle future economic activity and job growth," AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr said in a statement shared with Construction Dive.
  • "It is an absolute shame that House Democrats would vote to strip workers of their privacy, freedom and choice," ABC CEO Mike Bellaman said in a statement Tuesday, calling the PRO Act "short-sighted."

Dive Insight:

Aspects of the PRO Act that employer groups oppose include authorizations of secondary boycotts, where unions picket firms that are not directly involved with them; amendments to the union authorization process; and forcing workers to pay union dues in order to receive benefits from those unions.

The provisions in the PRO Act are many, but included in it are:

  • Changes to the union certification process. An initial vote to certify a union will still be anonymous, Elliot Haney, attorney at Cotney Construction Law, told Construction Dive in February. In the appeal process, however, unions may ask workers to share how they voted, which some fear will compel them to vote differently.
  • Elimination of right-to-work states, or states where laws prohibit union security agreements. This does not force workers to join unions or pay dues, but rather allow employers and unions to agree to the extent unions can compel workers to join, Haney said. There are 27 right-to-work states.
  • The "fair share" approach to collective bargaining. In right-to-work states, some workers receive benefits without paying union dues. Under the PRO Act, workers would need to pay dues for union representation, according to Haney.
  • Redefining employees and employers. Under the PRO Act, the definition of "employee" and "employer" in the NLRA would change, making it easier for workers to qualify for benefits, and make employers more responsible for those they have any impact on on their worksites, Haney said.

In his statement, Bellaman said the coronavirus pandemic has led to devastating job loses in construction, and that contractors will need to hire hundreds of thousands more workers this year to keep up with project demand. The PRO Act, Bellaman said, would hinder contractors' ability to hire skilled professionals.

"In a time of economic recovery, lawmakers should be working collaboratively and productively on legislation that will help our employees achieve their career dreams," Bellaman said. "The PRO Act is the farthest cry from the solution that our economy, businesses and workers need.”

A version of the PRO Act was passed in the House last year, but the then Republican-controlled Senate failed to vote on it. Democrats now control the Senate by a narrow margin, but Republicans could use a filibuster to derail the bill, which means that at least 60 senators — nine more than a simple majority — would be needed to move the legislation to a vote.

Under that scenario, Democrats likely will not have enough votes required to bring the bill for a vote, which means the PRO Act could languish in the Senate, Kristen Swearingen, vice president of legislative and political affairs at ABC, told Construction Dive