MADISON — Looking to pay back their generous Big Labor benefactors, congressional Democrats are moving to shove through a package of bills aimed at lining union coffers and killing worker freedom.
Top on the list of casualties in the so-called Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is language that would erode right-to-work laws in 27 states, including Wisconsin.
Federal law for nearly 75 years has given states the power to enact right-to-work protections, which prohibit forced unionization and compulsory union dues on workers as a condition of employment. The PRO Act would repeal such language and bring centralized control to the federal government — a move under the union-beholden Biden administration that would spell an end to right-to-work laws.
“This bill would impose a new draconian labor power grab on the country’s employers and employees,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, which has posted an impressive number of victories against forced unionization over the years.
Mix noted the sweeping extent of the legislation. He said Donald Richberg, a key player in pro-union laws under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt even found such powers for organized labor went too far.
“He said the value of unions lies in the power of the worker to control union representatives. That’s what the right-to-work law does, and it’s why compulsory unionization doesn’t work,” Mix said.
Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work state in 2015, when Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill into law.
“What’s been happening is we’re reversing 50 years of Democratic control and the unions building on themselves. It’s a reversal,” said then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), recently elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Democrats and their big donor allies want to take back the power they abused for decades.
“Twenty-seven states have spoken that workers should have the right to choose, to make the best decisions for their families,” said Erica Jedynak, director of Economic Opportunity for the Stand Together Chamber of Commerce. The philanthropic organization works on issues facing America to alleviate poverty.
The PRO Act includes a number of anti-worker freedom provisions, a “smorgasbord” of Big Labor wins, as Mix put it.
It would undermine independent contracting as it is known in America today. Unions and their political allies want to turn freelancers into employees — ultimately so they can force them into unions.
Jedynak said it’s so much bigger than the “gig economy.” A lot of people have relied on the flexibility freelancing provides as the pandemic forces them to adjust to volatile school schedules and child care concerns.
“The independent contractor piece could be really huge,” Jedynak said. “That’s where the future is going. I think our policymakers should consider that.”
More alarmingly, the PRO Act would mandate employers hand over private employee information to union organizers. It would include significant new penalties — up to $100,000 — for employers deemed by union-friendly investigators to have interfered with union organization efforts. And it would give the National Labor Relations Board — run by the Biden administration —the power to play judge and jury over its own rules.
Big Labor has given Dems much in the most recent campaign cycle, and it expects much in return. The top 20 union donors dropped nearly $200 million on campaigns over the past two years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The bill has already moved through the Dem-led House. It must make it through the Senate, narrowly controlled by Democrats.
Nothing short of worker freedom hangs in the balance, opponents of the PRO Act say.