Democrats Tee Up Workplace Legislation in Senate Hearing

By Greg Hoff posted 03-10-2023 11:31


In a hearing on union organizing, Democratic Members of the Senate HELP Committee pushed for passage of a trio of high-impact workplace bills that collectively would tip federal labor laws in favor of unions, facilitate more class action equal pay lawsuits, and restrict employer uses of employee data. In contrast, Republican Members used the hearing  to assail recent proposed rules on independent contractor status and joint employer liability. 

The hearing featured testimony from three union leaders and the former Chair of the National Labor Relations Board, John Ring. While nominally about worker representation and union organizing, in practice, the hearing served as a showcase for Democrats to push for passage of three major workplace bills:

  • The PRO Act (H.R. 20), recently reintroduced, would significantly rewrite federal labor laws in favor of union interests, including codifying card check recognition among many other pro-union, anti-employer provisions. The PRO Act has been introduced in each of the last few Congresses but has failed to garner the 60 needed votes in the Senate for passage. A similar fate likely awaits the current iteration.

  • The Paycheck Fairness Act, expected to be reintroduced next week, would facilitate more class action equal pay lawsuits while increasing the likelihood such lawsuits will succeed. Other provisions include pay data collection requirements and prohibitions on reliance on wage history in job decisions. The PFA has been introduced in previous Congresses but has failed to pass the Senate, which is similarly likely this time around.

  • The Stop Spying Bosses Act (S. 262), introduced in early February, would restrict employer workplace surveillance and uses of employee data, including a prohibition on collection of sensitive data and disclosure requirements for the collection of any data in general. The bill could get close to the 60-vote threshold in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but is unlikely to pass either chamber of Congress. 

Republican HELP Members used the hearing to push back against the PRO Act in addition to proposed rules from the DOL and NLRB regarding independent contractor status and joint employer liability, respectively. Sen. Braun (R-IN) highlighted the significant impacts such rules would have on smaller businesses, while Sen. Cassidy characterized the PRO Act as being pro-union but anti-worker. Sen. Cassidy (R-LA) also chastised the NLRB for targeting high-profile companies: “While no company is exempt from the National Labor Relation Act’s obligations, no company should be unfairly targeted and intimidated by a regulatory board. The Board’s recent actions...indicates a disturbing pattern of politicized targeting that poses a direct affront to principles of procedural due process and impartial enforcement.”  

Outlook: The hearing provided a preview of Democrats’ areas of focus within labor and employment issues in the current Congress. While each of the three above bills may face uphill battles towards passage, expect the underlying issues to remain in the spotlight in the coming months, with the further possibility that certain provisions of each bill could be implemented through regulation or executive order.

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