Right now, Democrats in Congress are pushing for passage of the so-called Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, and according to recent news reports U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised labor leaders that the PRO Act will receive a vote in the Senate if it obtains at least 50 cosponsors. While the House passed this legislation earlier in the month, the Senate has yet to take up the legislation which has, so far, gained the support of 45 Democrats and Independents in the Senate. Though Senator Angus King has so far refused to cosponsor the legislation, it is critical that Maine’s small businesses alert the Senator of the harmful provisions included in this bill.

Proponents of this bill claim it will simply protect the ability of workers to join a union if they so choose, however, the PRO Act will instead strip workers of their privacy, freedom and choice. Additionally, the PRO Act would impose undue costs on our nation’s small businesses at a time when they have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are striving to maintain their operations and provide jobs for millions of hardworking taxpayers.

The bill violates basic employee privacy rights, forcing employers to turn over employees’ phone numbers, addresses and email addresses without consent and replace secret ballots in union elections with “card check,” a system where votes are made public and employees fear retribution for voting their conscience. These provisions are not designed to help employees but instead expose them to harassment and intimidation unless they back unionization efforts.

The PRO Act also codifies into law the National Labor Relation Board’s controversial joint employer standard, which threatens our country’s small and local businesses by curbing the opportunity to own a franchise business or work independently. Additionally, the bill implements new restrictions for independent contractors, curbing the freedom and flexibility to work independently through gig economy platforms and traditional independent contractor roles.

Since 1943, a total of 27 states have passed right-to-work laws prohibiting employers from requiring employees to join unions as a condition of employment, incentivizing competition and producing a better work environment for businesses and workers. The PRO Act would completely reject this choice by eliminating these independently, state-passed laws, forcing individuals to join a specific union and forfeit a portion of their hard-earned paychecks to support the activities and influence of unions if they want a job at a unionized factory, jobsite, school or company.

Voters and economists agree that the PRO Act will cause irreparable harm to U.S. businesses. A recent analysis by the American Action Forum proved the PRO Act’s economic cost would be disastrous for the economy. The provision limiting independent contractors’ rights would affect 8.5% of GDP and put up to $12.1 billion of additional annual cost pressure on employers, and the joint employer provision would cost up to $33.3 billion in lost annual output for the franchise business sector alone.

These harmful provisions included in the PRO Act would have a devastating impact on construction in the United States and cause significant harm to our nation’s economy at this critical junction. It is critical that Maine’s U.S. Senators oppose this legislation.

Hope Pollard, a resident of New Gloucester, is president & CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine, a 175-member trade association consisting of contractors and construction-related businesses in Maine.

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