Opinions

Keep Alaska working by pushing back against the PRO Act

As Labor Day approaches, some politicians in Washington are busy cooking up a takeover of American workplaces. The deceptively named Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is federal legislation that has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently being considered in the Senate. To preserve the unique economic opportunities available in the Last Frontier, Sens. Sullivan and Murkowski should stand in strong opposition to the proposal.

In short, the legislation empowers labor unions at the expense of small businesses, employees, and independent workers. Rather than attempting to honestly convince workers that the value of union membership exceeds its baggage, Big Labor is hoping to tilt the playing field.

There’s no shortage of sabotage targeted at workers and small businesses.

Buried in the PRO Act is a provision that would allow unions to sidestep secret ballot elections when attempting to organize a workplace. The alternative to secret ballots is a system known as “card check,” where workers are left vulnerable to peer pressure and face-to-face intimidation tactics that would threaten to override the true preferences of employees.

Nationwide, nearly 7 in 10 workers are concerned about being outed publicly for their decisions around union membership elections — preferring their choice remain secret. It’s a concern that most politicians should be sympathetic to, given so many of them use preserving the sanctity of the vote as a rallying cry. But curiously, a majority of House members and several dozen senators support the PRO Act and its component that will compromise workplace election integrity.

I guess selective ignorance is a politician’s best friend.

The legislation would also expose and release private employee information, including home addresses, personal cellphone numbers, and email addresses. Labor organizers would have unfettered access to sensitive information to bolster union organizing — even if a majority of workers don’t want to unionize. It’s not just mama moose protecting her calves that you’ll have to worry about in your driveway; union organizers could show up on your doorstep.

Entrepreneurship is also on the PRO Act’s chopping block.

One of the more popular avenues to small-business ownership is the franchise business model. It allows aspiring entrepreneurs to get a jump-start in name recognition by borrowing the branding of a larger parent company. While the sign on the door may read McDonald’s or Burger King, the franchisee is responsible for hiring staff, distributing compensation, scheduling hours and various other operational decisions.

By enshrining a broader definition of a labor regulation known as “joint employer” into law, the PRO Act would curb these entrepreneurial opportunities. Franchise small businesses and the millions of people they employ will be put in jeopardy.

Alaskans who work for themselves are not immune either. The legislative package would force those currently considered independent contractors to be reclassified as employees. The new designation would affect everyone from freelance writers and independent truckers to gig economy workers and construction contractors. If the PRO Act is adopted, the flexibility and autonomy currently enjoyed by these workers would disappear.

Unsurprisingly, the proposed classification change is very unpopular among those who would be directly affected. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that more than 9 in 10 independent contractors prefer the advantages of being an independent worker, including choosing when and how much to work, over the benefits of a more traditional employment arrangement.

Small-business owners, employees, and independent workers should ensure their concerns about the PRO Act are made loud and clear to Sens. Sullivan and Murkowski. Alaskans can visit KeepAlaskaWorking.com to let their voices be heard. Hopefully, the state’s elected officials will listen.

Elaine Parker is the President of the Job Creators Network Foundation. Bethany Marcum is the Chief Executive Officer of Alaska Policy Forum.

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