PRO Act Could Mean US Will Determine Winners of Unionization Drives
More than 70 percent of the employees of Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, facility voted against joining a union, but that’s not the last word by far, especially if the Democrats’ PRO Act becomes law.
A total of 3,215 of the Amazon warehouse’s 5,800 employees cast mail-in ballots in the April 9 election, with 1,798, or 70.9 percent, voting against unionizing under the banner of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The union needed 50 percent plus one to win.
The vote was closely watched by political observers as it represented an effort to achieve a union breakthrough in the Big Tech industry, which is largely nonunion.
Under current law, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) could order a new election if the RWDSU files an unfair labor practices charge against Amazon concerning the election.
But under the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO) that passed the House with vigorous support from President Joe Biden and is now before the Senate, the NLRB could unilaterally set the election results aside and impose the union on the Amazon employees regardless of how they voted.
The House voted March 9 for the proposal, with 220 Democrats and five Republicans in favor of it and 205 Republicans and one Democrat opposed.
The PRO Act vastly expands the power of the NLRB to use its regulatory authority to reinforce organized labor’s efforts to expand its membership after decades of decline. It also would nullify the 27 state Right-to-Work laws presently on the books and enable unions to collect mandatory dues payments from employees who don’t wish to join a trade organization.
Only 6.3 percent of all private-sector workers were union members as of 2020, compared to 18 percent in 1985, according to Department of Labor data.
Referring to the prospect of an NLRB-mandated revote in an April 22 analysis, Capital Research Center Research Director Michael Watson weighed in on the potential impact of the PRO Act.
“This maneuver spotlights one of the worst provisions of the [PRO Act], the massive expansion of union coercive power endorsed by the Biden administration and sitting before the Senate as of writing,” he wrote.
“But the PRO Act would allow this partisan body to simply declare a union organized if the employer committed a technical infraction, even if the union lost the vote. And the PRO Act would substantially increase the list of technical infractions.”
The union’s president, Stuart Applebaum, said on the eve of the election: “Our system is broken. Amazon took full advantage of that, and we will be calling on the labor board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign.”
As promised, the union filed 23 objections on April 16, claiming Amazon’s actions “prevented a free and uncoerced exercise of choice by the employees.”
Among the objections were the union’s claims that Amazon:
- Sent multiple messages to workers unlawfully threatening loss of business at the facility if workers voted for the union, which would incur significant layoffs or full facility closure.
- Threatened workers with losing their pay rate, health insurance, time off, and retirement benefits if the union was voted in.
- Identified and removed workers who supported the union from mandatory captive-audience trainings that made the case for a vote against unionization.
An Amazon spokesman denied the union’s accusations, saying: “The fact is that less than 16 percent of employees … voted to join a union. Rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda. We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix told The Epoch Times on April 26 that the Alabama Amazon employees’ decisive vote against unionization is hugely significant.
“When you look at the metrics around that election, it’s fascinating. I mean, you had 5,800 people who were eligible to vote for unionization and of that 5,800, 12.7 percent voted for unionization,” Mix said.
“That 12.7 percent comes after a national, an international, campaign by union officials trying to convince the world that these workers were so overwhelmed and so abused that there was no other way than unionization.”
Mix said union efforts prompted discussion of the alleged plight of the Alabama Amazon workers across the nation and in Europe, and he pointed to Biden’s “craftily worded video, a craftily acted video, that basically was saying you’ve got to vote for a union at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama.”
Mix said he expects union advocates now to use the Bessemer outcome as evidence for the PRO Act as the Senate considers the proposal.
“Now the narrative is that they have moved on from the vote results and the only way this could have happened is if there was abuse of the workers, so they are now going to launch a campaign that says the defeat at Bessemer is why we need the PRO Act,” Mix said.
The Senate version of the PRO Act was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
Congressional correspondent Mark Tapscott may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org