The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held its first committee markup since the 2009 Affordable Care Act was deliberated. Unsurprisingly, sparks flew between Democrat and Republican senators when the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act came up for discussion.

The reintroduced PRO Act bill (S. 567), named in honor of the late AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, contains provisions to abolish right-to-work laws, make union membership conditional for employment, and mandate workers submit to an ABC test that assumes they’re employees and not independent contractors. 

IWF has raised alarm about the devastating impacts of the PRO Act on flexibility and the independent workforce in America. 

“One piece of legislation under consideration today is the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. It is not pro-worker. The PRO Act is not pro-worker, it is just pro-big union. Being pro-worker means defending the rights of all workers, including those who decide they don’t want to join a union,” Ranking Member Senator Bill Cassidy said in his opening remarks. “It eliminates secret ballot elections for unionization, the gold standard to keep somebody from being put into a corner and intimidated until they vote the way the intimidator wishes them to vote. Secret ballot elections also protect workers from retaliation if they choose a different way.”

Senate HELP Republicans offered amendments to the bill, but their recommendations were rejected by the Committee Chair and chief sponsor of the bill, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The bill passed out of committee and no date has been set for a full Senate vote.

This markup comes in the wake of 33 Senate Republicans urging the Biden administration to withdraw Julie Su’s nomination to helm the Labor Department. Su would oversee the enforcement of the PRO Act and other labor policies if she is confirmed.

The senators wrote, “Her track record and unwillingness to provide clarity to her past positions and the actions she would take as Secretary of Labor continue to raise concerns about her nomination.”

Su oversaw the implementation of California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 5—a law that forcibly reclassified most independent contractors as employees. 

As I explained in a recent op-ed for IWF, the PRO Act will displace millions of independent contractors from the workforce—including the over 500,000  residing in Virginia: 

By nullifying right-to-work, the majority of Virginia’s independent workforce potentially will be forced back into employee status in the name of fighting misclassification. Virginia workers – including female independent contractors – increasingly seek out freelance work to be more fulfilled in their careers and to balance family-work life.

American workers are increasingly seeking out flexible work arrangements over traditional and even unionized ones. By 2027, over half the U.S. workforce is expected to engage in some form of independent contractor work. 

We will continue to monitor this bill. 

To learn more about the PRO Act, go HERE.