Whether a business’s employees are represented by a union or not, all builders should be concerned about the pending Protecting the Right to Organize Act (“PRO Act”) being considered by Congress. If enacted, the PRO Act will alter fundamental principles of labor law and significantly prejudice the rights of employers. Supporters of the PRO Act claim that this legislation is needed to increase employee wages and create an environment in which unions can negotiate better collective bargaining agreements. Here are a few examples of the changes which would result if the PRO Act is enacted.
Employees’ Rights to Unionize and to Negotiate Contracts are Strengthened
- The proposed bill removes the NLRA’s prohibitions on employees engaging in secondary boycotts. This change means that unions can sponsor protests and pickets against any employer, even if the employer does not have a dispute with the union.
- Requires an employer to mediate and arbitrate the initial collective bargaining agreement following an election if the union and the employer are unable to reach an agreement within one year of the certification of the union. This requirement means an arbitrator would decide on the terms of the contract.
- Prohibits companies from permanently replacing striking workers.
- Prevents an employer from requiring employees to attend meetings in which the employer plans to persuade employees to vote against the union in a representation election.
- During an election campaign, the NLRB could issue an order that requires an employer to bargain with the union if the NLRB decides that the employer has made it impossible to conduct a fair election.
Punish Violations of Workers’ Rights Outside of the NLRB
- Currently, the NLRB is the sole and exclusive forum in which an employee or labor union can file unfair labor practice charge against an employer. This bill would allow employees and unions to file private actions against an employer and seek damages.
- Allows the NLRB to levy civil penalties for violations of the NLRA, including compensatory damages and penalties on officers and directors, when the employer is found to violate the NLRA.
- The bill allows the NLRB to go to court and obtain an injunction to immediately reinstate a terminated employee while the investigation is ongoing if the NLRB believes the employer has terminated the employee for engaging in union activities.
What Does this Mean for Contractors?
This bill, if passed by Congress, will make it very difficult for employers to meet with employees and talk to them about why they should not vote for the union. It gives the NLRB significant power to penalize employers that the NLRB deems to have violated the law, including requiring an employer to reinstate a terminated employee while the investigation is pending.
Employers who are concerned about this pending legislation should write their representatives and senators to make their concerns and objections to this bill known. This law would turn well-settled precedent upside down and poses a great danger to all employers, whether a union currently represents their employees or not.