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house Bill H.R. 842

Increasing Penalties for Misclassification of Employees as Contractors & Overturning State Right-to-Work Laws

Argument in favor

Although Americans are becoming increasingly interested in and supportive of labor unions, union membership is at its lowest point ever. This is due to the lack of laws supporting labor unions and the proliferation of right-to-work laws. By strengthening labor unions, this bill will protect workers and raise workers’ wages.

jimK's Opinion
···
03/09/2021
Misclassification of employees has been primarily a way for employers to avoid FICA taxes, unemployment and worker’s compensation contributions and other benefits for people they call independent contractors yet treat as employees. Employees living in the now without concern for the future with no qualifying contributions to the social security program or many other forms of taxation, like their net higher paycheck - so it is difficult to control this practice. The test comes down to wether or not someone is working as an employee or as a totally independent contracted entity to accomplish some specifically defined independent task. You can see where the determination of employee versus contractor can become a bit fuzzy and opportunists can exploit that ‘fuzziness’ to avoid taxes, limit rights to organize and to limit rights to join an advocacy group for employees. It all starts with the fuzziness regarding who must be classified as an employee versus those who can truly be classified as an independent contractor. … … … Bonnie K: I think you are right about unions being 'properly run'. The unions need to give workers a collective voice to make realistic demands of employers regarding employment practices, equity, benefits and compensation. Since Reagan, the unions have lost a lot of influence and this certainly contributes to practices such as misclassification, underpayment of workers to increase the ever growing wealth gap, relaxed safety standards, and corporate ability to threaten employees for termination without due cause. We need unions to bring equity back, to keep things in a proper balance. Unions can become too strong and make unreasonable demands that greatly damage the economy as well. We are far from that now, but care must be taken to assure that does not happen either. Balance! The best approach, as mentioned by several Democratic Presidential candidates is for companies to treat employees as valued stakeholders that will share in the companies successes or failures and give the unions a voice in corporate strategy, a seat at the table. It puts all parties involved in working for the common good instead of carving out chunks for the favored few.
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Sylvia's Opinion
···
03/09/2021
Get rid of right to work laws, increase power of labor unions, tax the rich, provide a living wage to everyone, provide the means to survive to those who are out of work. We are the richest country in the world. There is absolutely no excuse for the destitution I see around me.
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burrkitty's Opinion
···
03/09/2021
Absolutely!!! “Right to work” really just means “right to fire for no reason.” That is BS. I’v worked union and non union jobs in pro-union (WA) and anti-union (AR) States and even non-union jobs are better in a pro-union state!! PROTECT WORKERS!!!! If your business can’t be profitable without exploiting your workers YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE IN BUSINESS.
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Argument opposed

This bill would force workers to join unions regardless of whether they want to do so and hurt opportunities for people working as independent contractors. Most importantly, by making the regulatory environment more challenging for businesses, this bill would make it impossible for the economy to continue growing at its current pace.

Carina's Opinion
···
03/09/2021
No, people should not be forced to pay into Unions. Being a part of a Union does not guarantee a situation will work out in your favor!! Don’t be deceived into losing your hard earned money!!
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npuzar's Opinion
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03/09/2021
Forced unionization is wrong. I and every American has a right work.
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Robert's Opinion
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03/09/2021
Why is the federal government getting involved in the states right to work laws. Is this pay back for the unions supporting Biden? More and more of the states rights are being taken away from the states. Closer and closer to a tyrannical government, removing our rights given to us by the constitution.
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What is House Bill H.R. 842?

This bill — the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021 — would strengthen protections for workers’ right to organize a union and collectively bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions, in addition to overriding state right-to-work laws. It would also bolster remedies for and punishing violations of workers’ rights, such as through the misclassification of workers as independent contractors.

The bill would authorize the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to: 

  • Assess monetary penalties for each violation in which a worker is wrongfully terminated or suffers economic harm; 
  • Immediately seek an injunction to reinstate employees who are wrongfully terminated when they exercise their rights; 
  • Impose personal liability on corporate directors and officers who participate in violations of workers’ rights or who fail to act on knowledge of these violations;
  • Allow workers to seek justice in the courts, rather than solely through the NLRB General Counsel, to enforce their NLRA rights; and 
  • Prohibit employers from requiring workers to attend meetings designed to persuade them against unionizing.

This bill would seek to enhance workers’ right to strike for higher wages and better working conditions by:

  • Removing prohibitions on workers acting in solidarity with workers at other companies, protecting workers who engage in peaceful protest actions with their fellow workers, and prohibiting companies from permanently replacing workers who participate in a strike; 
  • Overturning the Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis by clarifying that employers can’t force employees to waive their rights to engage in collective or class-action litigation; 
  • Allowing employers and unions to enter into contracts allowing unions to collect fair-share fees that cover the costs of collective bargaining and administering the agreement, regardless of state laws; and 
  • Requiring mediation and arbitration to settle disputes between companies and newly certified unions.

Employers would be prohibited from misclassifying their employees as supervisors or independent contractors, or from denying workers remedies due to their immigration status. For employees with multiple employers, this bill would codify the joint employer standard set by the NLRB in its 2015 Browning-Ferris decision, which the Trump NLRB overturned in rulemaking.

This bill would also ensure that employees have the right to collectively bargain with all of the companies that control the terms of their employment and which are necessary partners for meaningful collective bargaining. This bill would also require employers to post notices informing workers of their rights under the NLRA and to disclose contracts with consultants hired to persuade employees on how to exercise their rights.

Impact

Workers; labor unions; employers; right-to-work laws; National Labor Relations Board (NLRB); National Labor Relations Act (NRLA); and Epic Systems v. Lewis.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 842

During the 116th Congress, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that this bill would bring in revenues of $14 million over the 2020-2024 period, and $39 million over the 2020-2029 period. These revenues would come from the National Labor Relations Board’s authority to assess civil penalties on employers that violate certain sections of the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA).

More Information

In-DepthHouse Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) reintroduced this legislation from the 116th Congress to strengthen protections for workers’ right to organize a union and bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions:

“The decades-long assault on workers’ rights – led by special interests in state legislatures, courts, and employers across the country – has suppressed union membership and eroded America’s middle class. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act is a major step toward ensuring that workers can exercise their basic right to form a union and collectively bargain for higher pay, safer working conditions, and decent benefits – including paid leave, quality health care, and a secure retirement. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the urgent need for Congress to protect and strengthen workers’ rights. Over the past year, workers across the country have been forced to work in unsafe conditions for insufficient pay, because they lacked the ability to stand together and negotiate with their employer. The PRO Act is an opportunity to honor the contributions of the many frontline workers during the pandemic and American workers nationwide who continue to uphold our economy.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass the most significant upgrade to U.S. labor rights in more than eight decades.”

Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA), has introduced a Senate companion to this legislation. In a February 4, 2021 press release, she said:

“After decades of wealthy corporations undermining our labor laws and four years of the Trump Administration’s attacks on workers’ rights, the PRO Act will restore workers’ ability to join together to demand their fair share of the economic growth they drive. This legislation is critical to supporting workers during this pandemic and to building back an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the very top. It’s time we pass the PRO Act and protect workers’ right to stand together and fight for better pay, quality health care, a safer workplace, and a secure retirement.”

Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate support this legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said:

“The men and women of labor are the backbone of our economy and the foundation of our strength. With American workers seeing their lives and livelihoods devastated by the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis, the re-introduction of the PRO Act is more important than ever. Democrats will always fight to defend the sacred promise to protect hard-working families while safeguarding the fundamental right to join a union. America’s middle class has a union label on it, and as the Democratic Congress works with the new Biden-Harris Administration to Build Back Better, we will do so in a way that tilts the playing field back to American workers and their families.”

House Education and Labor Committee Democrats contend that unions are “critical to increasing wages and addressing income inequality.” It notes that union members earn 13% more than non-union employees with similar education, occupation, and experience in nonunion workplaces. The HELP Committee also notes that “toothless” labor laws have allowed “unscrupulous employers” to erode union membership, leading to a decrease in union membership from 33% in 1956 to 10% in 2018.

The Biden administration supports this legislation. In a March 8, 2021 statement of administration policy, the White House said:

"The Administration strongly supports House passage of H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021, which would strengthen the Federal laws that protect workers’ right to organize a union and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. America was not built by Wall Street. It was built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class. Unions put power in the hands of workers. They give workers a stronger voice to increase wages, improve the quality of jobs and protect job security, protect against racial and all other forms of discrimination and sexual harassment, and protect workers’ health, safety, and benefits in the workplace. Unions lift up workers, both union and non-union."

Groups that oppose compulsory unionization and support allowing workers to choose whether they join a union call this bill “anti-worker” and “anti-freedom.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposed this legislation in the previous session of Congress, denounced its reintroduction in a press release on February 4, 2021. Glenn Spencer, Senior Vice President of the Employment Division, said:

"It's disappointing to see members of Congress reintroduce this harmful piece of legislation. This legislation strips workers of their privacy, threatens private ballots, imposes California's disastrous independent contractor test, jeopardizes employers' right to free speech, and threatens the loss of a job should workers choose not to pay union dues. This bill is a threat to America's workers, employers, and our economy. While claiming to be pro-worker, we firmly believe today's legislation is a grab-bag of harmful policies that would deprive millions of workers of their privacy and fundamentally alter our nation's system of labor relations."

During the 116th Congress, Sean Redmond, Executive Director of Labor Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said

“The PRO Act… [seeks] to prop up labor unions at the expense of employers and employees. Among the many pernicious provisions in the PRO Act, perhaps the worst would repeal right-to-work laws that have been adopted in 27 states. Those laws protect employees by preventing them from being fired for not providing monetary support to a union with which they do not wish to affiliate. Naturally, unions have detested those laws since the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act that allowed them because it deprives labor of the ability to coerce membership—and dues… Overall, the PRO Act lays out the most current wish list of organized labor and their allies, and it does not bode well for workers, employers, or the economy… The PRO Act also eviscerates employers’ rights by stripping their standing in NLRB representation cases. In other words, an employer being targeted by a union organizing drive would have no right of recourse to the NLRB, no matter how disruptive union behavior gets. On the other side, the bill would impose personal liability on employers for alleged NLRA violations… [A]nyone who wants the economy to continue its upward trajectory should just say no.”    

F. Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and Morgan Shields, legal counsel and director of Workers for Opportunity at the Mackinac Center, expressed opposition to this bill in a May 2019 op-ed in The Hill. They wrote: 

“Workers should be given the opportunity to freely choose whether to join and pay a union. Workers should be in control of when and how their private information is shared with groups and organizations. When it comes to the terms and conditions of their employment, workers should have more say, not less. Small businesses should be freed from regulatory burdens so that they and their employees can flourish. The PRO Act is not only pro-forced unionization, it is anti-worker and anti-freedom.”

Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell notes that it’s “highly unlikely” that any Senate Republicans will support this bill. In fact, she notes, Republicans are moving in the opposite direction from this bill, trying to pass a Senate bill that would implement right-to-work laws in every state

This legislation has 212 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 209 Democrats and three Republicans, in the current session of Congress.  Its Senate companion is sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

In the previous Congressional session, this legislation passed the House by a 224-194 vote with the support of 218 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 216 Democrats and two Republicans. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), had 40 Senate cosponsors, including 40 Democrats and one Independent, and did not receive a committee vote. The AFL-CIO supports this bill.


Of NoteFrom 1979 to 2019, union membership declined by more than half. Over the same time period, average incomes for the bottom 90% of households increased by only 1.1% while average incomes for the wealthiest 1% increased by over 184%.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / metamorworks)

AKA

Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021

Official Title

To amend the National Labor Relations Act, the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
  • The house Passed March 10th, 2021
    Roll Call Vote 225 Yea / 206 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Education and Labor
    IntroducedFebruary 4th, 2021

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    Misclassification of employees has been primarily a way for employers to avoid FICA taxes, unemployment and worker’s compensation contributions and other benefits for people they call independent contractors yet treat as employees. Employees living in the now without concern for the future with no qualifying contributions to the social security program or many other forms of taxation, like their net higher paycheck - so it is difficult to control this practice. The test comes down to wether or not someone is working as an employee or as a totally independent contracted entity to accomplish some specifically defined independent task. You can see where the determination of employee versus contractor can become a bit fuzzy and opportunists can exploit that ‘fuzziness’ to avoid taxes, limit rights to organize and to limit rights to join an advocacy group for employees. It all starts with the fuzziness regarding who must be classified as an employee versus those who can truly be classified as an independent contractor. … … … Bonnie K: I think you are right about unions being 'properly run'. The unions need to give workers a collective voice to make realistic demands of employers regarding employment practices, equity, benefits and compensation. Since Reagan, the unions have lost a lot of influence and this certainly contributes to practices such as misclassification, underpayment of workers to increase the ever growing wealth gap, relaxed safety standards, and corporate ability to threaten employees for termination without due cause. We need unions to bring equity back, to keep things in a proper balance. Unions can become too strong and make unreasonable demands that greatly damage the economy as well. We are far from that now, but care must be taken to assure that does not happen either. Balance! The best approach, as mentioned by several Democratic Presidential candidates is for companies to treat employees as valued stakeholders that will share in the companies successes or failures and give the unions a voice in corporate strategy, a seat at the table. It puts all parties involved in working for the common good instead of carving out chunks for the favored few.
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    No, people should not be forced to pay into Unions. Being a part of a Union does not guarantee a situation will work out in your favor!! Don’t be deceived into losing your hard earned money!!
    Like (30)
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    Get rid of right to work laws, increase power of labor unions, tax the rich, provide a living wage to everyone, provide the means to survive to those who are out of work. We are the richest country in the world. There is absolutely no excuse for the destitution I see around me.
    Like (51)
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    Absolutely!!! “Right to work” really just means “right to fire for no reason.” That is BS. I’v worked union and non union jobs in pro-union (WA) and anti-union (AR) States and even non-union jobs are better in a pro-union state!! PROTECT WORKERS!!!! If your business can’t be profitable without exploiting your workers YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE IN BUSINESS.
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    Yes!!! We have needed to strengthen protections for workers’ right to organize a union and collectively bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions, in addition to overriding state right-to-work laws for about my entire adult life!
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    Forced unionization is wrong. I and every American has a right work.
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    Workers deserve the right to organize if they so choose. It should be their choice to unionized or not.
    Like (23)
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    “Right to work” is a misnomer. What they really mean is ‘right to pay workers less’ and ‘right to give fewer benefits’. Republicans support owners over employees at every turn. When will they start standing up for the American 🇺🇸 worker?
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    Since Reagan broke the unions by breaking the air traffic controllers, corporate America has increasingly exploited workers and their fears of being laid off. Employment laws have been evaded by hiring temporary workers and using contractors so the corporation does not have to pay for benefits. Corporate America got rid of pensions and transferred part of the responsibility of retirement funding to workers, eventually reducing their dollar matching into retirement plans and retiree medical insurance benefits. Further, according to Kiplinger, “how corporate pensions went from holding $250 billion in excess funds in the late 1990s to being collectively underfunded today. Hundreds of plans have been frozen (meaning employees may collect benefits based on past work but do not earn future benefits), and retiree health benefits are an endangered species. What happened. Surplus pension assets are supposed to remain in the plans to provide a cushion for the inevitable times when investment returns are weak and interest rates fall -- like today. But years ago, employers persuaded Congress to relax the rules to allow them to use their overfunded pension plans to help cover other benefits, such as retiree health plans and early-retirement buyouts (which preserved cash the companies would otherwise have used to pay for both). Although that might have sounded like a good idea at the time, it essentially allowed companies such as Verizon and General Motors to use pension assets to finance corporate downsizings.... Others, such as IBM, moved hundreds of millions of dollars of executive pension liabilities into their rank-and-file pension plans without earmarking additional funds to pay for them. As a result, pension funds were severely depleted. Dramatic stock market losses did the rest. Separately, changes to accounting rules required companies to disclose future pension and retiree-health-plan obligations on their balance sheets. On the surface, the changes seemed a step toward greater transparency. But the new rules had a perverse effect: Cutting future retiree benefits improved a company's bottom line, which in turn increased executive pay tied to corporate earnings.” https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/t047-c022-s001-what-killed-pensions.html Tying executive pay to a company’s bottom line encouraged executives to exploit workers more and reduce their benefits and transfer the costs of what benefits remain onto workers shoulders. Earnings for a large proportion of average workers have remained mostly flat for 40 years while the bonuses and pay of a lot of senior management ballooned. Too, younger workers are cheaper workers which encourages corporations to lay off or eliminate the positions of older workers as well as not to hire them while often folding their responsibilities into the workload of those younger workers. Collective bargaining - unions - protected workers from abuses. Yes, unions were often plagued by corrupt leaders. I think rather than destroying them it would have been better to tighten laws and oversight. Given all corporate America has done to exploit workers, I also support white collar workers joining together to protect those workers.
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    I'm all for allowing workers to find work wherever and however they can, but in a country where the ultra-wealthy and corporate interests repeatedly take advantage of the working class so they can pay no taxes and maximize profits, we have to have a sensible baseline. Children and families are suffering, and people are working low-wage and risky jobs because they're desperate, while the 1% skates on by and earns millions in stock investments. I'm sure the right will fight this law, but we have to agree that all Americans should have an equal right to a living wage, limited hours, safety, and the ability to purchase benefits. It's the human thing to do.
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    Why is the federal government getting involved in the states right to work laws. Is this pay back for the unions supporting Biden? More and more of the states rights are being taken away from the states. Closer and closer to a tyrannical government, removing our rights given to us by the constitution.
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    Unions play a key role for workers to have equal and fair rights from their employers!
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    Right-to-Work laws should be Right-to-Fire laws because they protect companies rights to hire and fire as they choose not workers rights to work. It's time to remember that the people who do the work are the ones who keep our economy moving and make our country strong.
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    If you learn anything from history know this one fact “Big Gov = Bad” if you haven’t learned that at this point I don’t have much hope for you.
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    Back when there were Unions but of course they were whittled away by companies. I can remember taking a job that you weren't even allowed to mention the word union. Needless to say I left that job. Workers were not protected and if you got injured on the job, that was an automatic brush you under the rug. It's not their fault you got injured. So unions are extremely necessary especially in certain fields of work. I know one company right now who needs a union and I wish the folks working there would smarten up. During a pandemic telling folks...you don't come in to work...you're fired. Don't get me started on companies that don't want to be responsible for the workers so they call you an independent contractor. Bring back the unions!
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    This removes ones individual’s right to decide for themselves if they want to be part of a union. Why can’t one decide if they want their hard earned money towards union dues versus not? This also allows more competitive choices of who businesses want to work with or pay for services. It brings innovation and efficiency to the workforce when individuals can decide how they want to work and to what limit rather than getting approval from a union leader. Unions have their benefits but let individuals decide if being part of a union is beneficial to them. This is a freedom that everyone should have.
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    VOTE NO ON HR 842. Bad law for freedom in our country. This remover our right to choose where we want to work. More regulations from FEDERAL GOV.
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    There are fewer and fewer employees and more and more independent contractors every year. This means that in a world where the little guy already has to watch out, she or he loses employment protections, too. That’s really dangerous for a workforce and population.
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    Unions, in its time were effective and necessary, but over time has lost its purpose/effectiveness and, not to mention, increased corruptness and as a result has lost mass membership. This, in itself says plenty and speaks loudly for the people's wishes. This bill would force workers to join unions and eliminate workers choice. Additionally, can't help think that this bill has a couple of back door objectives, namely, 1: To support a political contributor, and 2: A way to secure the objective of increasing the minimum wage.
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    It’s about time that the government step in and get rid of loopholes that corporations use to pay people less, no sick leave, no benefits and use it as a tax write off, plus hide behind right to work! All You have is the right to race to the bottom. Corporations have you as a hostage and economic slavery. Reading some people statements as to why they are against the end of right to work is because of unions and unions dues. Do not join a union! Union are at the lowest it has ever being, how is that working for you, in working three jobs and a 80 hour work week? No retirement, no healthcare and being on government assistant to live? Instead of you complaining about others making more, you should as why you are making so little?
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