PRO Act Is A Threat To Georgia's Economy

Walt Farrell

Published May 3, 2022

From the CEO

Tuesday, May 3, 2022 – Atlanta, Georgia – The Georgia Chamber of Commerce represents over 47,000 businesses employing over 2.5 million Georgians across 500 business sectors and all counties of the Peach State, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce represents approximately 300,000 direct members and indirectly represents the interests of more than three million businesses and professional organizations of every size, in every economic sector, and from every region of the country.

We know Georgia business.

And we know public policy that will hurt Georgia businesses and their workers when we see it. That is the case with a piece of federal legislation called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or the PRO Act. Let's make one thing clear - we support the right of Georgia workers to form or participate in a union if they so choose. However, the PRO Act would alter Georgia's workplaces beyond recognition, giving union organizers and federal bureaucrats new powers over employers and their employees. We believe the PRO Act will make it more expensive for Georgia employers to conduct business and will cost thousands of Georgia workers their jobs.

Consider one provision of the PRO Act that would nullify Georgia's 75-year-old right-to-work law. If the PRO Act were to be enacted, under this provision workers of a unionized company would be forced to join a union or to pay union dues as a condition of their employment, eliminating their freedom of choice. It should be noted that union dues in Georgia average almost $1,000 per year. During this time of high inflation, which Bloomberg estimates will cost the typical American household $5,200 this year, Georgians can ill afford the costs associated with forced unionization.

Two additional provisions of the proposed law would compromise worker rights by making it easier for unions to organize workplaces. The first would undermine the secret ballot in union elections in favor of a "card check" system in which workers' votes would be made public. The second would require employers to hand over to union organizers sensitive personal employee information - like their home address and phone number - before a union election. It's very easy to see how these two provisions would expose workers to possible threats and intimidation and rob them of their agency.

The PRO Act would endanger entire business models and industries. One provision would codify the so-called joint employer rule, thereby turning franchise business owners into employees of their brands and making it easier to organize their businesses. It has been estimated this provision could cost as many as 350,000 U.S. jobs. Moreover, it would escalate the cost and diminish the attractiveness of the franchise model that has served as a powerful pathway toward prosperity for many minority entrepreneurs.

The gig economy would also fall victim to the PRO Act. Under yet another provision, most gig workers would be reclassified as employees. American Action Forum estimates that reclassifying 50% of Georgia's roughly 850,000 independent workers could cost Peach State employers an additional $2 billion annually. Their analysis does not factor in the most likely outcomes of this policy, however-massive layoffs, and higher costs to consumers.

It should by now be clear that the PRO Act is a major payoff to the labor unions. These are only a handful of the 51 major changes to U.S. laws governing employment and union elections in the bill.

While the PRO Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives, it languished in the Senate, where it lacked sufficient support to land on President Joe Biden's desk.

That's when PRO Act supporters got creative. First, they tried to stuff its many job-killing provisions into the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. When that failed, the House inserted several PRO Act ideas into the COMPETES Act, which is ostensibly about helping American industry remain competitive with China. Now the House and Senate must conference to agree on compromise language of the COMPETES Act. We are actively asking Georgia's Senate delegation that the PRO Act provisions be removed from its final version.

Better yet, Georgia's entire federal delegation should oppose the PRO Act and all its provisions in whatever form they take.

Chris Clark, President & CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce
Glenn Spencer, Senior Vice President, Employment Policy Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce