by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
North Carolina’s right-to-work law — passed in 1947 after Congress enacted the Taft-Hartley Act outlawing so-called “closed shops” — protects nonunion workers from being forced to pay union dues. The law also ensures union membership or nonmembership is never a requirement for employment.
Just 28 states have passed such laws. The PRO Act would see all of them repealed. That’s only the beginning.
The worst thing about the legislation is it holds more than 20 provisions, all of which work together to make a “Frankenstein-esque kind of bill,” said Isabel Soto, a labor policy analyst at the American Action Forum, a conservative-leaning think tank.
One of those provisions would reclassify independent contractors as regular employees — a move that has raised the ire of freelancers and independent contractors in states such as California, Sanders and Soto say.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act is a deliberate attempt to override state right-to-work laws and beat back independent contracting and the gig economy.
It would be a frontal assault on North Carolina’s longstanding tradition of being a right-to-work state. Our state constitution secures people’s right to the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labors, right up there with their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But this act would force them to pay union dues even if they had no interest in joining a union or having a union take their money to speak on their behalf, even supporting policies and politicians that they would not.
It also would make it much harder for people to work as independent contractors by making a company contracting for someone’s services have to satisfy a new, three-part test to prove they don’t count as company employees who would therefore be subject to forced unionization and collection of union dues.
In short, the act would try to enforce a 20th century model of collectivism on a different world. In the name of enriching and empowering unions, it would disrupt untold numbers of mutually beneficial relationships between entrepreneurs and companies in North Carolina.
Trying to calculate the negative impacts of this act on North Carolina is hard enough. It would make it more expensive to employ contract services and force money away from hard-working individuals, both of which would have terribly negative implications for the state’s economy. But given that the PRO Act could devastate the “platform revolution” here and elsewhere, who knows how many brilliant ideas and job opportunities it could prevent?