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If Congress cares about jobs, the economy, workers' rights, it should say no to the PRO Act: Rep. Fred Keller

Rep. Fred Keller

Politicians constantly talk about how they are “pro-jobs.” But you cannot be pro-jobs and anti-business, nor can you be pro-jobs and anti-worker. An upcoming vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act will provide a clear litmus test of which members truly care about creating jobs and protecting workers’ rights.

In September of 2019, Democrats forced the PRO Act through the House Education and Labor Committee along a party-line vote. I sit on that committee and voted against the legislation because of its deleterious effects on workers’ free choice and privacy rights.

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Soon, Democrats will bring this radical bill before the full House for a vote.

Our nation is experiencing the greatest economy in generations, with the lowest unemployment rate for all categories of Americans since I was four years old. Congress should not pass legislation that would slow economic growth, stifle job creation, and limits workers’ free choice and privacy. Yet, that is exactly what the PRO Act would do.

I worked in private industry for 25 years, first as a rip saw operator in a factory before managing that factory. During that time, I saw firsthand that the vast majority of employers care about their employees, both professionally and personally.

Our nation has adopted many reasonable regulations to protect workers against unfair and discriminatory practices. As innovation and technology reshape our economy, Congress should continue to take steps to ensure that workers’ rights are protected. However, Congress should not penalize employers and employees who get it right with more regulation and government interference.

To be sure, the PRO Act would have many harmful effects on workers. Cloaked in the language of employee protection, the real result of the PRO Act is providing workers with fewer choices, fewer rights, and an inability to speak for themselves.

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For instance, by federally mandating California’s three-part “ABC test” to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, the PRO Act will eliminate flexibility and opportunity for countless workers.

The California ABC test makes it very difficult to qualify as an independent contractor, thereby eliminating the ability for workers to set their own hours and meet the on-demand needs of a changing social economy. This change would effectively cripple the ability of those in the gig economy, including freelance reporters and app-based employees, like Uber drivers, to work.

Additionally, the PRO Act would eliminate 28 states’ Right-to-Work laws, which allow employees to choose whether to join a union and protect them from retribution if they wish to not affiliate. Of the 10 states that have seen the highest rates of wage growth, seven of them are Right-to-Work states. North Dakota, a state with Right-to-Work protections, has seen wages grow 110 percent – the highest in the nation.

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The ability of smart and hardworking people to use their skills to find gainful employment on their own terms is paramount in a free society. Barriers to that happening include requiring employees to join or pay a portion of their hard-earned income to an organization that does not represent their interests or views on matters of public importance. But that is exactly what the PRO Act does.

Finally, the PRO Act would diminish workers’ privacy rights. The bill mandates that employers must share employees’ personal information with union organizers without employees’ approval, exposing them to unwanted contact and harassment.

Moreover, the bill expands unions’ ability to organize without a vote by employees, shortens the time frame for union elections in order to silence debate about the possible disadvantages of unionization, undermines secret ballot elections of union leaders, and replaces the freedom to contract with binding arbitration, forcing employment terms on employers and employees whether or not either side agrees.

To shine a light on the truly anti-worker provisions in this bill, I recently held a roundtable in the heart of Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District with employees and employers. The message was clear: The PRO Act is a bad bill that needlessly inserts the government in the employer-employee relationship, harming both employers and employees.

If Congress really cares about jobs, the economy, and workers’ rights, it should say no to the PRO Act.

Congressman Fred Keller (R-PA) represents the 15 counties of Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District and currently serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee.

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