In March, the US House of Representatives passed what’s known as the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act. The bill cleared the House with a vote of 225-206 and its future now hinges on the decision of the Senate. If passed, it would be the most significant change to United States labor law in decades and would impact both unionized and non-unionized workplaces.
The bill comes amid some major labor law controversies within retail giants Amazon and Tesla. Last year, two Amazon employees were fired after raising concerns about the company’s treatment of warehouse workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Labor Relations Board ruled the company violated legal protections for employees who advocated for change in the workplace. If Amazon doesn’t agree to settle the case, the agency said it would file a complaint within the next few weeks.
Elon Musk has also made headlines recently for his 2018 tweet that discouraged unions within his company Tesla. In this case, the NLRB found Musk’s tweet unlawfully threatened employees with the loss of stock options if they decided to be represented by a union and ordered that he delete the post. Tesla has since filed an appeal.
According to NPR, Union leaders said the PRO Act would begin to level a playing field that is unfairly tilted toward big business and management. In contrast, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the act would “undermine worker rights, ensnare employers in unrelated labor disputes, disrupt the economy, and force individual Americans to pay union dues regardless of their wishes.”
Among several changes, the new legislation would revise the 1099 classification of independent contractors. You may recall the controversy over California’s Assembly Bill 5, which required the application of the ABC test to determine if workers in California were employees or independent contractors.
Here are some additional changes that would be enacted if the PRO Act is passed:
- The act would change right-to-work laws in more than two dozen states which allow workers in union-represented workplaces to opt out of the union, and not pay union dues. The new bill would allow unions to override such laws and collect dues from those who opt out, in order to cover the cost of collective bargaining and administration of the contract.
- The law would prevent an employer from using its employee’s immigration status against them when determining the terms of their employment. It would also establish monetary penalties for companies and executives that violate worker rights.
- Employers could not hold mandatory meetings to speak against creating a union or share facts about what union organization could mean.
- It would tighten the timeline for negotiating a collective bargaining agreement and would require the employer and union to begin bargaining within 10 days of a written request. If no agreement is reached within 90 days, either party could request a federal mediator.
President Biden has recently shared his support of this legislation in a White House statement . Biden said he strongly encouraged the House to pass the PRO Act and believes the law would dramatically enhance the power of workers to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
Biden’s commitment to labor law changes should come as no surprise. During his first month in office, Biden nominated former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as the US Secretary of Labor. Walsh was later confirmed and became the first former union leader to serve in that role in nearly half a century.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator Angela Reddock-Wright spoke to Forbes earlier this year about Walsh’s nomination.
Twice-named a U.S. News Best Lawyer in America for employment and labor law, Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH) in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.
Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Forbes.com, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Daily Journal, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.
Angela is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California dispute resolution company. She also owns her own dispute resolution law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in the mediation, arbitration, and investigation of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other workplace claims, along with Title IX, sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct conduct cases, along with hazing and bullying cases in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities; fire, police and other public safety agencies and departments; and other private and public sector workplaces.
For more information regarding resources for employers, businesses, and employees during this time, connect with her on LinkedIn for new updates, or contact her here. You may also follow her on Instagram.
This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.