Despite an overwhelmingly challenging year, businesses in Clarke County, Frederick County, and Winchester — as well as across Virginia — have shown incredible resilience and are in the midst of re-opening their doors to local communities. Elected officials from Richmond to Washington, D.C., can help our businesses succeed to create new jobs and reignite economic development by passing smart, pro-growth policies that benefit businesses and workers alike. Instead, some in Congress are pushing legislation that would attempt to fundamentally restructure workplaces in the Commonwealth and throughout the country. The erroneously titled Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would infringe on workers’ rights, threatening democracy in the workplace while also hindering local businesses’ ability to hire new employees and create economic opportunities that could help Virginia communities build back even stronger than before.
Virginia is one of the 27 states across the country that has passed strong right-to-work laws to foster a positive environment that attracts economic development. As former Governor Terry McAuliffe once said, that “helps us do what we need to do to grow our businesses here in Virginia.” The so-called PRO Act would strip away all right-to-work laws nationwide, ignoring the will of the voters, forcing workers to pay for union activities that they may not support, and undermining economic development and job creation efforts.
When it comes to reshaping the workplace, the PRO Act gets even worse. It would threaten worker privacy by requiring all employers to give union leaders access to private, personal information, such as home addresses, during union-organizing drives. It would also change union elections from requiring a secret ballot to using union authorization card that employees would have to sign in front of their fellow workers, management, and union organizers. Both of these changes would expose workers to the threat of coercion or intimidation while chipping away at their fundamental rights of choice and privacy. Additionally, the PRO Act would make other changes that would significantly hinder efforts by local business owners to grow their operations. That includes redefining what it means to be an employee versus an independent contractor. By enforcing a failed policy from California —t he so-called “ABC test” — the PRO Act would threaten the freedom and flexibility of independent contractors and self-employed workers to set their own hours and determine what work they choose to do and when they choose to do it while also making it harder for employers to grow their workforce.
The name may sound good on paper, but in reality, the PRO Act would have a negative impact on Virginia workers, local businesses, and our entire economic recovery. Fortunately, it appears as though Senator Mark Warner understands the implications of this bill and has so far chosen not to cosponsor it. For the good of businesses across the Commonwealth, the senator should stand firm in his opposition to H.R. 842.
Cynthia Schneider is the CEO of the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber.