Predictably, the pendulum of labor law will swing to the left over the next several years. The first sign was the recent passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (“PRO”) Act by the U.S. House of Representatives. While this law has virtually no chance to pass the Senate without filibuster reform, it serves as good insight into the immediate goals of the labor movement.
If enacted, the PRO Act would represent one of the most dramatic changes to US labor law in decades. The biggest change would be a provision allowing unions to override current “right-to-work” laws in 27 states by allowing contracts mandating the payment of union dues. However, that is just one portion of the sweeping legislation.
The PRO Act would expand the current authority of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). For example, it would allow for the NLRB to levy “meaningful” monetary penalties to companies and executives found to have violated workers’ rights, and expands the NLRB’s injunctive powers to allow for immediate worker reinstatement while a case is pending. In addition, the PRO Act provides the NLRB with the power to enforce its own rulings without any ruling from the Court of Appeals. The PRO Act also seeks to shift the balance in election outcomes by prohibiting employers from requiring employees to attend “captive audience meetings” prior to union elections, and giving independent contractors the right to collectively bargain as employees. Finally, the PRO Act changes the nature of post-election labor negotiations by forcing employers to reach quick agreements on first contracts or face arbitration where even economic terms could be decided by a third-party.
In short, employers should not dismiss the passage of this legislation by the House simply because it is unlikely to become law. The PRO Act clearly illustrates the goals organized labor will seek to achieve in the short term one way or another.