Legislation passed by the United States House of Representatives would overturn Arizona’s 75-year right to work law, raising alarm bells among business groups here and in other states. similar laws.
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Advocacy groups like the US Chamber of Commerce are calling on the Senate to reject the anti-jobs proposal, saying it would harm employees, employers, independent contractors and freelancers.
“The PRO Act would, for all intents and purposes, gut out Arizona’s right to work law, which would mean that state workers who find themselves in a unionized workplace would have to pay dues or risk paying dues. lose their jobs, said Glenn Spencer, senior vice president of the Employment Policy Division at the American room in Washington, DC, the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of over 3 million businesses.
“Their employers may well be forced to fire them if they do not wish to pay premiums in this context,” said Spencer, who spoke with Chamber Business News (CBN) about the implications of the proposed law.
Radical proposal would set dangerous precedent
The PRO Act, which stands for Protection of the Right to Organize Act 2021, would adopt dozens of sweeping changes to current labor laws in favor of unionization. Unions like the AFL-CIO support this measure. President Joe Biden has promised to sign the bill if it reaches his office. Meanwhile, the two Arizona senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, are currently recalcitrant preventing the bill from moving forward. But the pressure is strong.
Businesses are concerned about a long list of new provisions, ranging from requirements limiting the ability of freelancers to have flexibility over their own hours to allowing union organizers to engage in coercive tactics long considered illegal.
Simply put, the proposed law would deny employees the right to decide whether they want to join a union, disrupt the thriving odd-job economy and hurt employers’ bottom lines, Spencer said.
Protect or harm workers’ rights?
The US Chamber of Commerce and hundreds of business advocacy groups are calling on senators to say “no” to the proposal. In Arizona, at least 20 chambers of commerce, including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, join the American Chamber in opposition.
Proponents of the PRO Act argue the measure would restore fairness to the economy by strengthening federal laws that protect the right of workers to join a union. But what they fail to mention is the number of measures that could have detrimental consequences for employees and job creators, Spencer said.
Here are some of the main reasons business groups oppose the measure:
Elimination of the right to work law
Currently, Arizona and 26 other states have a Right to Work Act, which gives workers the choice of whether or not to join a union. States without right to work laws require employees to pay dues and union dues as a prerequisite for employment.
“The bill represents a pretty dramatic intrusion into state laws,” Spencer said. “Since 1947, states have been allowed to pass right to work laws. The courts have ruled on these laws, and this bill would essentially erase all of that without any action from the state legislature.
The law would allow coercive tactics long considered illegal
Another worrisome provision in the PRO Act would be the ability for company workers to pick up companies with which their employer does business, known as “side boycotts,” Spencer said.
“Most people are not aware of this concept and it is for a very good reason because secondary boycotts and picketing have been illegal since 1947. For more than 70 years, it has been prohibited to engage in this. kind of activity, ”he said. “Congress specifically banned it because it so interfered with the free flow of commerce.”
Under current law, union organizers can speak to an employer and employees when they are trying to organize. If secondary boycotts are allowed under the PRO Act, union organizers could target any businesses the company does business with, occupying their parking lots and disturbing their customers.
“So you can see how very disruptive a labor dispute in one company could become. A whole slew of neutral third parties who have nothing to do with a labor dispute are suddenly drawn into it, ”Spencer said. “Just because you are providing services as a third party, it could suddenly make you the subject of union protests and picketing around something that you really have no part in.”
Strips independent contractors of their classification
Another worrying aspect of the PRO law is the redefinition of independent contractors and freelancers similar to the AB 5 ticket which was adopted in California in 2019.
Under AB 5, when a hiring entity claims that the person it hired is an independent contractor, the law requires the application of the “ABC test” to determine whether workers are employees or independent contractors. For many independent contractors, the PRO Act would mean that they would be considered employees for purposes of federal labor law, which would give them the right to organize.
In California, the penalties for companies that “falsely classify an employee as an independent contractor” are civil penalties of $ 10,000 for a first violation, $ 30,000 for “repeated or willful” violations, and 1% of profits. net if they are “generalized”.
In view of the penalties, this could severely limit independent contractors and freelancers“Ability to be hired, forcing them out of business.
Independent contractors could find themselves unionized without knowing it
Independent contractors tend to be dispersed, so if a union brings together a bargaining unit of independent contractors, it usually has to be done by mail, Spencer said.
“What we’ve seen in other contexts like this is that a lot of these workers don’t even realize that there is any union campaign going on and that these campaigns are won by a majority. of those who actually vote, ”he said. “So if you have a hundred independent contract workers, if only 10 voted, six of them would constitute the majority of voters and that would be enough to impose a union on every 100.
“So you will wake up one morning and suddenly find that you are a member of a union and you have to pay union dues because the right to work is gone. he said.
Economic growth would likely be hampered
Research from the United States House shows that states entitled to work tend to have higher rates of economic growth, higher rates of job creation and lower unemployment rates, Spencer said.
“So there is certainly a personal cost to workers, but there is also a greater economic cost to states,” he said.
Sinema and Kelly key players in the debate
For the most part, Democrats are leading the charge on the PRO law. There are currently 47 Democrats cosponsoring the bill in the Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has said he will take the bill to the prosecution if he manages to secure 50 co-sponsors.
So far, the two Democratic senators from Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, have not co-sponsored the bill. One of the reasons given for their reluctance is the lack of bipartisan support for the bill. They also have a large number of constituents who support the legal status of the state’s right to work.
“Senators Sinema and Kelly did not co-sponsor this bill. This is a good thing. The people of Arizona should thank them for standing up for workers, the right to work and employers, ”Spencer said.
Strong opposition from the business community
Business leaders and advocacy organizations across the United States send letters to Congress, calling for an end to the PRO Act, including the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), made up of hundreds of organizations representing millions of companies employing tens of millions of workers nationwide in almost every industry.
Arizona Chambers Call on Congress to Vote ‘No’
In Arizona, at least 20 chambers of commerce oppose the measure:
- Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Buckeye Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Chandler Chamber of Commerce
- Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce
- Coolidge Chamber of Commerce
- Glendale Chamber of Commerce
- Grand Phoenix Room
- Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce
- Green Valley Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce
- Havasu Lake Region Chamber of Commerce
- Marana Chamber of Commerce
- Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce
- Peoria Chamber of Commerce
- Prescott Chamber of Commerce
- Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce
- Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Surprise regional chamber of commerce
- West Valley Chamber of Commerce Alliance
- Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce
To learn more about why business and industry are opposing the bill, visit: Stop the PRO law.
This story was originally published at Chamber business news.