House Approves Significant Rewrite of Labor and Employment Laws

February 07, 2020

The PRO Act, the unions' legislative wish list that would threaten workers’ privacy, chill the economy, and establish laws based on regulations that have recently been eliminated, passed the House with mild bipartisan support, as seven Democrats crossed over to vote against it.

The PRO Act (Protecting the Right to Organize Act) aggregates many stand-alone bills that resemble, among others, California’s AB5 independent contractor law, the Employee Free Choice Act (card check), the persuader rule, and other provisions that would:

  • Strip away workers’ private ballot in most union elections;

  • Codify Obama-era joint employer rules that would make it easier for workers to seek multiple and deep pockets in wage and hour lawsuits;

  • Chill the gig economy and the flexibility independent contractors enjoy;

  • Eliminate Right-to-Work laws in 28 states; and

  • Permit unions to picket a supplier, contractor, or other business not directly involved in the union dispute.

A complete list of the relevant provisions can be found here.

Champions for employers:  The House Education and Labor Committee’s ranking Republican, Virginia Foxx (R-NC) led the charge against the PRO Act.  Her staff and committee colleagues crafted numerous amendments and managed to hold all but five Republican votes.  Those defectors were mostly from northeast union strongholds.  Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) also fought against the PRO Act.  Byrne is a former management attorney and a leader for sensible joint employer and independent contractor policies.

Seven Democrats voted against the measure—Reps. Kurt Schrader (OR), Henry Cuellar (TX), Joe Cunningham (SC), Kendra Horn (OK), Ben McAdams (UT), Lucy McBath (GA), and Stephanie Murphy (FL).  If the measure is revived in a future Democratic Congress and there is a change of administration, it will be critical to maintain enough Democrats vote against it to ensure stability in the labor laws. 

HR Policy has partnered with the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace in advocating against the PRO Act provisions individually and collectively.  HR Policy lobbyists met with dozens of Democratic and Republican offices and urged our government relations colleagues to encourage members of Congress to vote no on the PRO Act.  In addition, our Senior Labor Employment Counsel Roger King testified against the bill in a House hearing last year.

The lobbying on the other side was relentless as well.  AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who called the PRO Act “the most significant piece of legislation that will come before the House this year," threatened to withhold campaign contributions from any member of Congress who voted no on it.  In a tweet he said, "Those who would oppose, delay or derail this legislation, do not ask us—do not ask the labor movement—for a dollar or a door knock.  We won’t be coming."

Bottom Line:  The vote was 224 to 194, with five Republicans voting for the bill and seven Democrats voting no.  Of course, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is never going to take it up in the Senate.  However, if Democrats can win the Senate majority in November, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would be delighted to call a vote on this bill.  For more analysis of the far-reaching political effects of this vote, click here