HR Policy Counsel Cautions Against “Radical Changes” in Labor Laws

July 26, 2019

HR Policy Senior Labor and Employment Counsel Roger King testified this week before the House Education and Labor Committee against legislation that would dramatically rewrite a number of key provisions in American labor laws, including the protection of employers and their employees from being pulled into other employers’ labor battles. 

In a comprehensive manner, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (“PRO Act”; H.R. 2474) would enact numerous changes that have long been on organized labor’s agenda, including:

  • Changes to the definitions of joint employer (broader) and independent contractor (narrower) under the National Labor Relations Act;

  • “A complete undermining of the secondary boycott laws that protect neutral employers and employees—especially small and medium-sized business entities—from being brought into labor disputes of other parties”;

  • Government-mandated third-party arbitration of first contract negotiations;

  • A resurrection of the proposal to elect unions through a “card check” process, which would be triggered by virtually any employer violations during an organizing campaign; and

  • Authorization for unions to obtain personal employee information, including employee personal cell phone numbers and personal email addresses, among other information, whether the employee has consented to such disclosure—employees would not be able to opt out of providing their personal information, nor is there any guarantee such information would be kept confidential.

King’s general assessment of the bill:  “The argument that the lack of success of the union movement can be attributed to our nation’s labor laws is not correct.  … The numerous proposals in this legislation are not well thought out, are not supported by record evidence, and are unnecessarily biased against employers and employees.”

Why it's important now:  Since there is no chance the bill will be taken up by the Senate, the PRO Act could quietly sail through the Democratic House, which includes many new members who were elected on a relatively moderate platform.  Yet, depending on the next election, the measure could have a significantly increased chance of enactment.  It is important that those who consider the bill now realize the fundamental changes it would make that go well beyond its predecessor—the Employee Free Choice Act, or “card check” bill—which many moderate Democrats struggled with during the previous administration.