PRO Act Reintroduced as Senate Committee Considers Labor Secretary Nominee

By Daniel Chasen posted 02-05-2021 15:02


The PRO Act, a laundry list of union legislative priorities that would pose a threat to the economic recovery, was reintroduced as the Senate HELP Committee considered Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for Labor Secretary.

Mayor Walsh characterized the PRO Act as “one step toward helping people to organize freely.”  Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) noted the PRO Act is an area of “passionate disagreement” between him and Mayor Walsh.  On one component of the bill, the elimination of Right-to-Work laws, Scott said, "Overnight, those 27 states lose their ability to be right-to-work states.  That is devastating for the economic future of this nation, devastating for those employees within those states, and frankly a bad decision and a poor start for this administration."

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 27 states; and

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

Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray announced the reintroduction of the PRO Act in Mayor Walsh's hearing.  She also touted the Paycheck Fairness Act and strengthening OSHA.  Mayor Walsh maintained a collaborative tone in these and other areas, promising to look at both sides of each issue, including the PRO Act, in how they would affect businesses and workers.

Meanwhile, the Senate approved a power-sharing agreement, paving the way for Senate Democrats to take the helm of the chamber's committees.  Key assignments include: 

 Ranking Member 
Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs
 Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
 Pat Toomey (R-PA)
 Bernie Sanders (I-VT) 
 Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Commerce, Science, and Transportation
 Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
 Roger Wicker (R-MS)
 Ron Wyden (D-OR)
 Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
 Patty Murray (D-WA)
 Richard Burr (R-NC)
 Dick Durbin (D-IL)
 Chuck Grassley (R-IA) 

Looking ahead:  Notwithstanding Democratic control of both Chambers of Congress (by the slimmest possible margin in the Senate) and support from the White House, the PRO Act still faces the filibuster in the Senate.  However, it is expected that the Biden administration will seek to make certain provisions mandatory for federal contractors through executive order.