ILMA Compoundings - April 2020 - 42

WASHINGTON LANDSCAPE

PRO Act Reveals 2020
Democrat Labor Topics
By Matthew Levetown

I

n election years, lawmakers often
signal their stances on issues by
introducing legislation, even if it
has no chance of passing a divided
Congress. A prime example is the
Protecting the Right to Organize Act
of 2019 (PRO Act) (H.R. 2474),
which passed the Democrat-majority
House along (mostly) ideological
lines - five Republicans crossed the
aisle in support of the measure, while
seven Democrats voted against. In the
unlikely event that the bill is taken up
by the Senate, the White House indicated that President Donald Trump
would veto it.
Consequently, the PRO Act
functions as a labor "wish list," which,
if enacted, would undo a series of
pro-business decisions by the National
Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over
the past four years, expand union
power and increase the number of
workers considered "employees." As
labor is an important debate topic, the
PRO Act gives Democratic presidential
candidates talking points in one convenient bill. For example, Sen. Bernie
Sanders (I-Vt.) used passage of the
PRO Act to directly challenge Trump
on workers' rights, suggesting that only
by supporting the bill can the president
claim to be pro-worker.
The Senate version of the bill is
co-sponsored by Sanders and former
candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren
(D-Mass.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar
(D-Minn.), while Joe Biden's campaign
website supports some provisions of the
PRO Act. Richard Trumka, president of
the American Federation of Labor and
Congress of Industrial Organizations
(AFL-CIO), declared the legislative

42

APRIL 2020

| COMPOUNDINGS | ILMA.ORG

measure "the labor movement's number
one legislative priority this year." He
later tweeted that any who oppose the
legislation will not receive support from
AFL-CIO, including a commitment not
to support Democrat lawmakers who
voted against the PRO Act. Predictably,
Democratic Party hopefuls will be courting union support by addressing some, if
not all, of the ideas in the PRO Act.
KEY PROVISIONS
Generally speaking, the PRO Act
would undo many decisions passed
by the current NLRB and entrench
several Obama-era NLRB decisions
as law. Effectively, employers would
have a harder time pleading their
cases before the NLRB on issues
that change quickly in the modern
economy, such as the proliferation

of independent contractors in a gig
economy. The PRO Act's provisions
include three coverage areas that are
likely to arise in debates ahead of the
2020 election, and they represent
major changes to existing rules.
First, and widely supported by
Democratic candidates, the PRO Act
adds civil penalty provisions, enforced
by the NLRB, against employers that
engage in "unfair labor practices," a
definition that would be significantly
expanded. Additionally, the NLRB
would be able to obtain injunctions,
forcing the reinstatement of workers
upon a claim of retaliatory termination for engaging in union activity.
While currently, workers must file
complaints with the NLRB, the PRO
Continued on page 44


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ILMA Compoundings - April 2020

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