Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Congressional Dems Use Budget Bill as Launchpad for PRO Act Provision

Union bosses and their pals in Congress are determined to make the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) the law of the land. But despite passing the House of Representatives, the bill’s odds of clearing the Senate still aren’t great. Unwilling to admit defeat, union leaders think they’ve found the key to getting at least some parts of the bill approved: Congress’ budget bill.

Earlier this week, Senate Democrats released their plan for a $3.5 trillion budget. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made sure to emphasize that the budget plan is intended to fund “pro-worker incentives” and “labor enforcement and penalties.”

Although he was vague on the details, reports say the language is “designed to cover a tax credit or deduction on union dues” and “the creation of civil monetary penalties that punish companies for interfering in workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain under the National Labor Relations Act.” Where have we seen calls for levying monetary fines on employers before? That’s right — the idea was included in the PRO Act legislation. 

The current budget blueprint contains “several other potential reforms” aimed at helping rebuild labor’s dwindling power. Many of these may end up being pie in the sky ideas, but it looks like including the ability to fine companies has a chance of sticking around. After all, provisions of the budget bill have to pertain to the actual budget. Since the fines would go to the National Labor Relations Board, there is a direct relationship to the federal budget.

As described in the PRO Act, these fines could actually “punish employers for even technical and minor violations.” Meanwhile, they would do very little to protect workers. As for providing tax incentives for union dues payers, the policy is a clear effort on Congress’ part to boost union funds — a boost which many lawmakers undoubtedly hope is reflected in their own campaign bank accounts.

The PRO Act, which reads more like a union wishlist than a piece of serious legislation, would overhaul the labor system at the expense of workers. Trying to pass it piecemeal won’t make the bill’s provisions any less harmful.

Categories: PRO Act