HR Policy Senior Labor and Employment Counsel Roger King, testifying before the House Education and Labor Committee, discussed the current state of union organizing activity in the U.S., the use of electronic voting in representation elections, and the many concerning provisions of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.
By the numbers: Mr. King highlighted a recent Gallup poll which found that 71% of Americans were generally positive toward unions. However, only approximately 11% of the respondents stated they were interested in joining a union. Additionally, 58% of respondents stated they were “not interested at all” in joining a union. King stated that the PRO Act is not the answer to solving economic disparities in the country, even though advocates suggest it could help close the wage gap between the wealthiest and other individuals in our society. He cautioned that while union representation can be a contributing factor for economic prosperity for certain individuals, other factors like job training and upskilling should also be considered when analyzing economic disparities. In addition, King raised concerns regarding recent activity from the NLRB and General Counsel Abruzzo, including their push for card check union recognition and electronic voting in union elections.
The PRO Act (H.R. 842 and S. 420), which passed the House last year and has languished in the Senate since then, formed the basis for the hearing. Mr. King argued that the proposal is an unprecedented and radical approach to change labor laws without a credible policy and legal rationale. He suggested the PRO Act is an attempt to tilt the NLRA significantly in favor of unions and have the NLRB be or appear to be a procedural ally with organized labor in the election process and related areas of the NLRA. Furthermore, King noted concerns with several provisions of the PRO Act including instituting the restrictive “ABC test” for determining independent contractor status, which would have significant ramifications for those that want to remain an independent contractor.
It is still doubtful that the PRO Act will pass the Senate—it does not have the Republican support needed to clear the filibuster hurdle. However, if efforts in the Senate fail, under Chair Lauren McFerran’s direction, the NLRB has begun the process of reexamining the criteria for independent contracting as well as the definition of joint employment under the National Labor Relations Act. If the NLRB succeeds, key provisions of the PRO Act would be implemented without passing Congress.
A recording of the hearing can be found here, and Mr. King’s full testimony can be found here.