- The PRO Act is getting renewed consideration after a failed Amazon employee union bid.
- If handed, the legislation would strengthen unions and supply extra protections for nonunionized employees.
- Labor attorneys say the invoice may very well be a boon to unbiased employees like freelancers.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Amazon employees in Alabama did not win their union election final week. However some specialists say Amazon’s aggressive anti-union tactics, which included a barrage of day by day textual content messages to workers, fliers, and obligatory anti-union conferences, has reignited curiosity within the PRO Act, a sweeping labor-rights invoice that handed the Home in early March.
If signed into legislation, the PRO Act would strengthen federal protections for employees to kind unions, discuss their work and wages, and have interaction in different actions safeguarded by the Nationwide Labor Relations Act, a 90-year-old legislation that protects workers’ rights to collective bargaining.
The legislation would additionally reclassify among the nation’s 15.5 million independent workers, together with freelancers and gig employees, as workers beneath the NLRA. That may enable employees akin to Uber drivers, who’re unbiased contractors, to kind unions and collectively discount with the businesses they work for.
Though seen by many as an enormous win for employee rights and unions, the invoice has been publicly lambasted by freelancers who say reclassifying their work would endanger their potential to earn a dwelling. The PRO Act makes use of one thing referred to as the ABC Test to find out whether or not somebody is an worker: For those who’re a employee performing the principle duties of an employer — akin to a contract author for a newspaper or a driver for a rideshare firm — you are an worker.
The nonpartisan group Struggle for Freelancers USA, which opposes codifying the ABC Check into federal legislation, says the PRO Act is anti-contractor, not pro-worker.
However many freelancer fears could also be unfounded. Labor and employment attorneys informed Insider that because the invoice stands, it strengthens protections for freelancers and contractors.
“If the invoice grew to become legislation, it will change the definition of an worker just for the NLRA and can solely affect who has the appropriate to kind a union,” mentioned Benjamin Sachs, the Kestnbaum professor of labor and business at Harvard Regulation College. “The underside line is that this may be a win for freelancers.”
The PRO Act solely makes use of the ABC Check to resolve whether or not or not freelancers rely as workers beneath the NLRA. So whereas unbiased contractors would acquire the appropriate to unionize, their standing would not change for employment legal guidelines that pertain to unemployment advantages, extra time, or minimal wage.
Elizabeth Stork, a lawyer at Reavis Web page Soar, mentioned she would not assume the PRO Act itself is “dire” for freelancers. She additionally mentioned the PRO Act continues to be removed from actuality, on condition that the invoice is predicted to have a tough time advancing via the Senate.
A part of the explanation the PRO Act has confronted resistance from freelancers is that it is paying homage to California Meeting Invoice 5, a legislation that makes use of the ABC Check to reclassify freelancers as workers for all employment-related issues. Critics of the PRO Act fear that it might pave the way in which for future legal guidelines that create freelancer issues.
“True unbiased contractors who store their work round and have been their very own boss did not need their work to dry up as a result of individuals who employed them at the moment are shackled with further obligations as a result of they’re ‘workers,'” Stork mentioned of AB-5, including that the ABC Check is a “slightly blunt instrument.”
After AB-5 took impact in California in January 2020, some industries — together with leisure, journalism, and know-how — obtained exemptions to the legislation.
Making use of the ABC Check to federal employment legal guidelines would possible assist “permalancers” and gig-economy employees who need to be workers, Stork mentioned. However some freelancers could not need the ABC Check being written into further legal guidelines that have an effect on healthcare and wage and hour protections.
Michael Lotito, a lawyer at Littler Mendelson who represents employers on labor and employment points, believed that many contract employees freelance for a cause, and that reclassifying them as workers — even when just for unionizing functions — is an overstep. “Finally, it comes all the way down to a operate of alternative: Freelancers can at all times resolve to change into an worker,” he mentioned.
A lobbying effort largely pushed by Uber and Lyft led to the November passing of Proposition 22, which now exempts app-based employees from being categorised as workers. Shortly after Prop 22 handed, California grocery chain Albertsons announced that it will exchange its supply workers with unbiased contractors.