The PRO Act hurts American competitiveness

"The U.S. needs to focus on helping, not hurting, small businesses," says CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro.

The PRO Act hurts American competitiveness

Nancy Pelosi is among the PRO Act's supporters in Congress.

Photo: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Getty Images

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association.

Should employers be required to give up personal and private information about their employees to union organizers? If 216 Congressional Democrats and two Republicans get their way, employers would have to give a name, phone number and home address to any union official claiming to want to organize their facility. As if anyone in America wants to be visited in their home by a union official financially incentivized to make them sign a unionization petition.

And with the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, Democrats want that to be all it takes. Among other things, the proposal would allow employees to simply sign a petition, giving them overnight unionization. This "card check" proposal appropriately died in 2009, when the Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. Even many Democrats then could not stomach it.

Moreover, the Democrats want to override the right-to-work laws in 28 states, which stops workers from being compelled to join a union to work in the public sector. Of course they do, because many workers don't want to be in a union. In 2015 after Wisconsin enacted a right-to-work law, nearly 100,000 workers dropped out of the public-sector unions. Removing right-to-work laws also gives unions a free pass, since they no longer must answer to workers or even provide value in order to get new members.

Right to work increases jobs and choices, which is why we include it as one of the grading metrics in CTA's biennial U.S. Innovation Scorecard. States with right-to-work laws receive an A+, and those that force workers to participate in and pay dues to unions earn an F.

Although most Americans have a favorable view of unions, very few belong to one, according to a Pew study from 2018. Provisions in the PRO Act were not designed to help small and local businesses and would limit opportunities for gig workers and independent contractors. American workers could lose key employee rights, including Americans' fundamental right to work without being forced to pay dues to or join a union — or worse, losing their jobs — if this bill is enacted. The U.S. needs to focus on helping, not hurting, small businesses — businesses currently struggling to keep their doors open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tech industry and unions are incompatible

The tech industry is pulling our economy and stock market forward. Unions preserve the status quo, and union workers might not be shifted quickly to other jobs and projects. Tech companies by nature must pivot on a dime, work swiftly to get the next version or product out faster than competitors and redeploy workers based on changing demand. Tech workers average a higher salary, and employees typically own a portion of the company either through public stock or by equity commitment when working for a startup.

Ironically, the big losers under the PRO Act would be workers — the very group the law is intended to help. Under the PRO Act, many independent workers would lose the right to enter flexible work arrangements that they seek and value. PRO Act provisions applying to contractors are very similar to California's AB 5 law, which has destroyed thousands of careers by making it difficult for businesses to hire freelancers or independent workers.

Unions are proposing this radical and anti-business shift in workplace rules at the worst possible time. Our economy is fragile, and American businesses are struggling to reopen and emerge from the pandemic. Employers are considering whether to invest in the U.S. or elsewhere, and union demands have made many American companies non-competitive globally. It would be economic suicide to pass laws shifting unions to the default choice of American companies — unless you want our economy to shift to European-style lackluster performance with slow, if any, GDP growth.

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