Labor Relations

Big News for the Right to Organize: The Latest PRO Act Status Update

The PRO Act could make big changes to labor relations. Learn about the PRO Act status, its impact on employers, and how labor management software can help.

congressional hall right to organize

Employees have the right to engage in various activities related to organizing and advocating for their interests in the workplace. This often involves joining or forming a union that can engage in collective bargaining with employers. At the federal level, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and other laws protect these rights and prohibit employers from restraining employees from engaging in protected activities. 

Many states have “right to work” laws that limit labor unions’ influence. While the NLRA is generally viewed as being favorable to unions, right-to-work laws tend to favor employers. A bill currently pending before Congress, the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, could make significant changes to labor relations. Read on to learn more about the PRO Act bill, how it could affect employers, and how labor management software can help them.

What Is the PRO Act?

Representative Robert C. Scott (D-VA) introduced the PRO Act in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 28, 2023. The bill has received fairly wide support from labor organizations and opposition from business groups.

The PRO Act would amend the NLRA and other federal statutes to expand protections for workers who are trying to organize or go on strike. Changes in the bill include:

  • Broadening the definition of “employee” in order to limit the classification of workers as supervisors or independent contractors, who are outside of the NLRA’s protections;
  • Making it easier for workers to go on strike;
  • Prohibiting employers from holding “captive audience” meetings to discourage employees from unionizing;
  • Enabling unions and employers to override state-level right-to-work laws;
  • Increasing penalties for employers that violate the statute;
  • Requiring unions and management to submit contract disputes to mediation or arbitration; and
  • Allowing employees to file lawsuits against employees for violations of their rights under the NLRA.

Why Was the PRO Act Introduced?

Rep. Scott has introduced the PRO Act twice before, in the 116th Congress in 2019 and the 117th Congress in 2021. The bill passed the House both times, but never received a vote in the full Senate. He introduced it in the current Congressional session with a Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.

Rep. Scott’s office released a statement in support of the bill, which declares that “[u]nions are essential for building a strong middle class and improving the lives of workers and families.” It positions the PRO Act as a means of ensuring that workers will be able to benefit from the nation’s economic recovery. The statement also claims that “[p]ublic support for labor unions is…surging,” and is currently at its highest point since 1965.

How Could the PRO Act Affect Employers?

If the PRO Act becomes law, it could substantially change the rules regarding labor rights and organizing.

Right-to-Work Laws

Right-to-work laws generally bar agreements between unions and employers that require employees to contribute to a union, regardless of whether they are members. Section 111 of the PRO Act would amend the NLRA to allow “fair share agreements” even if state right-to-work laws prohibit them. This type of agreement would require all employees who are part of a collective bargaining agreement to contribute to the union.

Captive Audience Meetings

Employers might have to make major changes to how they respond to union organizing efforts. These types of meetings are often the most efficient way for employers to present their views on unions, but they could become a legal liability under the PRO Act.

Civil Lawsuits

The PRO Act would expand workers’ ability to sue their employers in civil court. This could lead to far greater financial liability. PRO Act training would be essential for managers and supervisors to ensure that they know what types of actions could lead to lawsuits.

What Is the PRO Act’s Current Status?

As of October 2023, the PRO Act status has not changed much since its introduction earlier in the year. It has yet to receive a committee assignment, so it is nowhere near a full vote of either chamber of Congress. We’re left in a holding pattern, waiting to see if it progresses to a full vote, is ultimately approved, is rejected, or is shelved for further revisions.

Learn More About Labor Relations Software

Labor laws at the state and federal levels protect employees’ rights to engage in certain activities. Employers could face legal penalties if they interfere with those rights. The rules and regulations relating to labor rights may be subject to change. It can be difficult for employers to keep up with the latest developments. Labor and employment relations software can help them stay on top of their legal obligations.

Contact us today to set up a customized demonstration and learn about how LaborSoft can meet your HR data management needs.

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