Tag Archives: PRO Act

The PRO Act: Why This Should Matter to You

Not only will the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) restore the right of workers to freely and fairly form a union, this landmark worker empowerment, civil rights, and economic stimulus legislation will also help us build back better following the pandemic and recession. 

As we recover from the pandemic and economic recession, the PRO Act will help ensure good jobs for working people. All workers need the collective power of a union to help achieve decent pay, benefits, flexible schedules, fair treatment, and basic respect and dignity at work. The PRO Act also addresses inequality. Research shows that the rapid growth of unions in the 20th Century dramatically reduced inequality by extending union protections and advantages to all workers across entire industries. A union contract is the best tool we have to close racial and gender wage gaps and ensure dignity and fair treatment for all workers. 

Economists increasingly understand that inequality is bad for economic growth. Growing inequality and a shrinking middle class leaves the majority of people economically insecure and unable to invest or participate in our economy. 

The PRO Act and ABC Test: Freelancers Need Not Worry 

Misclassification is a serious issue that affects all types of freelancers, including musicians. The PRO Act expands the definition of employee so that some independent contractors and freelancers can join a union to advocate for higher wages, better working conditions, and protections, if they choose to do so. The provision of the PRO Act that will define which independent contractors and freelancers can take advantage of these rights is the ABC test. 

The PRO Act adopts the ABC test only for purposes of the NLRA and the right to form a union in the private sector.  

The ABC Test 

An individual is considered an employee unless all three of the following are true: 

  • The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work and; 
  • The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and 
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed. 

If all three are true, the individual is defined as an independent contractor and therefore not subject to NRLA laws related to organizing and union representation. 

Unfortunately, there is much misinformation surrounding the PRO Act and the ABC test and what it might mean for freelancers. Here are some FAQs that clarify the purpose and scope of the ABC test. 

Q: What is the purpose of the ABC test? 

The ABC test is used to determine who qualifies for protection under federal law if and when they choose to organize, join a union, or bargain collectively. 

Q: Will the PRO Act and ABC test cause freelance musicians to lose work? 

No, but the PRO Act may allow them to join a union or engage in collective bargaining, if they choose to do so. Those who are not interested in engaging in collective action would be unaffected by the PRO Act and they are free to continue to work as freelance musicians and contractors. 

Q: Will the PRO Act outlaw independent contracting or gigging and make freelance work contracts illegal? 

Nothing in the PRO Act would outlaw any kind of work arrangement. Freelance musicians and other creative professionals are free to continue to do freelance work. 

Q: Would the PRO Act force the person I’m working for to hire me as a W-2 employee? 

The PRO Act does not affect any current laws that determine whether someone is hired as a W-2 employee, including tax law, minimum wage law, overtime laws, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, etc. 

Q: Is the PRO Act ABC test the same as California’s A.B. 5? 

It is not the same. A.B. 5 redefines who is an “employee” in California, under a broad range of state employment laws. The PRO Act does not affect any of those laws. It only affects federal law governing private sector unions and organizing rights. 

Q: Why does the ABC test need to be a part of the PRO Act, anyway? 

It is essential because employers often try to stop workers from organizing by falsely claiming that they are independent contractors, not employees. The ABC test protects the rights of musicians to engage in collective action and organize, if and when they choose to do so. 

The PRO Act: the Logic Behind Labor Law Reform in 2021

While we all know that organizing is the lifeblood of the American labor movement, bargaining that elusive first contract is always one of our biggest challenges. After four years of incessant anti-union political rhetoric designed to weaken trust in and break the back of organized labor, union leadership refused to fold. Instead, they have helped federal legislators draft pro labor legislation and mounted what would easily be considered the largest and most important political electoral campaign victory in organized labor’s history.

The results of the 2020 election of President Biden buttressed the unshakable drive behind union political organizing power, leading to pro labor wins in both the executive and legislative branches of American government. For the naysayers, these worker-driven changes will eventually mean more job security and greater personal financial stability.

With a focus on fortifying and updating the important fundamentals of labor law, the Biden Administration took immediate steps to strengthen the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). First, the NLRB general counsel was replaced. Secondly, labor leaders and their affiliate unions worked with the new majority in the 117th Congress to bring relief to the single and multiemployer pension plans that union plan participants and retirees deserve. All the while, they were also focused on advancing voting and civil rights in both HR1, the For the People Act and through fair and equitable treatment of all workers as outlined in the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, HR 842.

Now, the legislative focus has turned to strengthening labor’s organizing prowess through advancing and passing the PRO Act. The PRO Act restores the right of workers to freely and fairly form a union and bargain together for changes in the workplace. The PRO Act is landmark worker empowerment, civil rights, and economic stimulus legislation, and an essential part of any plan to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.

This act has already passed the House of Representatives. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called it “a game changer,” noting the importance of giving the American worker an even stronger voice on the job. The focus is on determining exactly which Senate procedural process will get the $2.5 trillion infrastructure package, which contains the PRO Act, across the Senate finish line.

As America works to “build back better,” Congress and the Administration are coming out of this pandemic focused on an infrastructure jobs program designed to revive our devastated economy and help displaced American workers, including working musicians. More importantly, President Biden said, “worker power is not anti-business. It’s about creating economic growth [and] creating good-paying jobs.”

Similar to global reconstruction efforts after the economic destruction of WWII, American labor quickly switched from its wartime industrial footing to American and global reconstruction. Just as the labor movement pitched in to win the war, organized labor is now coming together with our government to lift our country out of the jaws of disaster. Similar to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Joe Biden and Congress recognize the good that can be done post disaster through the power of the purse. Not only are they rebuilding jobs but also putting back into American citizens’ pockets the hard-earned tax dollars they paid into the system to help sustain us through this crisis.

It was General Eisenhower who recognized the industrial might of organized labor which helped fuel the economy and win the war. In his September 17, 1952 speech in New York City to the American Federation of Labor he said: “Today in America, unions have a secure place in our industrial life. Only a handful of unreconstructed reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions. Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.”

President Eisenhower’s words were just as insightful then as they are now. In this new age, the PRO Act and pushing labor law reform is the best way to fight this evil pandemic, update our labor laws, and strengthen unions by expanding our organizing and bargaining rights.

The PRO Act will empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and negotiate for better wages and working conditions. It will remove archaic barriers to organizing, increase worker protections, and strengthen the institutions that hold corporations accountable. It will repeal “right to work” laws that lead to lower wages, fewer benefits, and more dangerous workplaces.

PRO Act Passes House, Faces Uncertain Future in Senate

On March 6, the House passed HR 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), by a vote of 225 to 206. The legislation would make it easier for workers to join and form unions by empowering the National Labor Relations Board to levy fines and by extending collective bargaining rights to independent contractors—a major win for AFM members. The bill also included a last-minute amendment that would study the bill’s impact on gig workers. “There were some concerns about the flexibility aspect of the PRO Act, and if people could opt out if it didn’t suit their personal needs and circumstances,” Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), who supported the amendment, told Politico.

Rep Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, said of the bill’s approval in the House, “By passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act today, the House has taken a critical step to secure workers’ right to join a union. … The Protecting the Right to Organize Act makes the most significant upgrades to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 85 years by providing new tools to protect workers from intimidation and retaliation, introducing meaningful penalties for companies that violate workers’ rights, and allowing workers to hold free, fair, and safe union elections.”

The legislation will next be taken up in the Senate, where it is expected to face strong Republican opposition.

House Passes PRO Act, landmark bill that would strengthen labor laws

The US House of Representatives on February 6 approved the most significant legislative effort to expand the rights of working people to organize since the Great Depression.

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, known as the PRO Act, would amend some of the country’s decades-old labor laws to let workers quickly vote to form a union without employer interference, limit anti-worker tactics like employee misclassification, add penalties for companies that retaliate against workers who organize, and help workers secure a first contract. It would also weaken “right-to-work” laws in 27 states.

The House passed the bill with a vote of 224 to 194, mostly along party lines.

Prior to the vote, AFM International President Ray Hair sent a letter urging members of Congress to support the legislation and oppose any amendments offered during deliberations designed to weaken the bill.

Hair wrote:

The PRO Act strengthens the National Labor Relations Act by supporting the ability of working people have a voice on the job. The bill would update the National Labor Relations Act to allow workers to have a greater say in such important workplace issues as higher wages and retirement security. Once workers vote to form a union, the National Labor Relations Board could seek enforcement and relief in federal court allowing for swifter justice. In addition, the bill would prohibit employers from forcing workers to attend captive audience meetings designed to encourage workers from voting against the union. Companies and corporate officers would be confronted with stiff financial penalties for violating the law. 

The PRO act also establishes a mediation and arbitration process to prevent employers from avoiding the completion of a first contract. Historically, many employers attempt to stall first-contract negotiations in an effort to frustrate and in some cases stop the collective bargaining process, often after union organizers and negotiators have worked for years to finalize a first contract.

The bill also supports workers’ right to picket or withhold their labor in order to push for workplace changes. It also protects employees’ right to strike and prevents an employer from hiring permanent replacement workers and allows unrepresented workers to participate in collective action and class action lawsuits against unscrupulous employers.

Finally, HR 2474 eliminates state right to work laws which over the years have given more power to billionaires and special interest groups at the expense of lowering worker wages, eroding pensions and healthcare coverages in states where such laws have been enacted.

The bill now moves to the GOP-controlled Senate, which is unlikely to consider it. Republicans and business groups have forcefully opposed the PRO Act, claiming it would devastate businesses, eliminate privacy rights, and upset the national economy.