House Moves to Pass PRO, Give NLRB Greater Enforcement Power

The House of Representatives is expected to take up the Protecting the Right to Organize PRO Act (H.R.2474) this week. While passage is all but assured in the House it is unlikely this legislation will move forward in the Senate.

Supporters of the bill, primarily Democrats, say it is needed to protect workers and their right to organize and form unions. They claim that union membership has declined because of political attacks against unions, decisions by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that hamper efforts to organize, and aggressive employer tactics that tilt the playing field against unionization and intimidate workers.

Opponents of the bill, primarily Republicans, say it represents an assault on the workplace rights of both employers and employees in order to help a special interest: labor unions. The bill, they say, will subject employees to harassment by union leaders, expand the pool of employees that are harassed, and undermine individual privacy by sharing information with union organizers. They say it infringes on workers’ right to free speech by forcing workers who are not union members to contribute to unions for political causes they don’t support. The bill assumes employers are guilty until they can prove that they didn’t interfere in a failed election to unionize, and it infringes on employers’ privileged association with their own legal counsel. They say union membership has plummeted because of unions’ own failings and corruption, and that the bill will benefit only the lawyers who bring suits against employers, resulting in fewer jobs and higher unemployment.

H.R.2474 modifies the National Labor Relations Act to give the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) greater enforcement authority, as well as to make it easier for workers to unionize.

Among the measure’s provisions, it gives the NLRB authority to enforce its own orders, allows the board to impose civil monetary penalties against employers who engage in unfair labor practices and to seek court injunctions against such companies, and empowers the NLRB to order employers to pay wronged employees larger monetary awards.

It also modifies the process under which employees may organize and vote to join a union, including by requiring the NLRB to schedule pre-election hearings to be held within eight days of when workers file an election petition with the NLRB and by limiting the ability of employers to add unrelated employees who don’t want to unionize to a proposed bargaining unit that will be voting on unionizing; it expands the number of employees eligible for collective bargaining by narrowing the definition of supervisor and independent contractor who are not eligible, and by modifying the definition of joint employer; and it prohibits employers from permanently replacing employees who strike and from discriminating against employees who support or participate in a strike.