“PRO Act” Makes Congressional Comeback, Seeks to Redefine “Independent Contractor”

On March 11, the House passed the “Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021” (H.R. 842) by a razor thin margin of 225 to 206. The legislation would amend the National Labor Relations Act by redefining “employer/employee” relationships, possibly impacting horse trainers and other equine professionals. That said, “PRO Act” champions have argued that its workplace reforms would apply only to operations seeking to organize a labor union. Highlights of the bill include the following:

  • It would expand employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace,
  • Strengthen whistleblower protections,
  • Pre-empt “right to work” laws on the books in 27 states,
  • And revise the definition of “employee” and “employer” in a manner that would diminish worker classifications as “independent contractors.”

H.R. 842 is not the first iteration of the “PRO Act.” In February 2020, the House passed a previous version of the bill, H.R. 2472, by a vote of 224 to 194. The bill did not move in the Senate where it had no chance of passing. To illustrate the tight margins in Congress on the issue, please note that the bill passed the House by even fewer votes in March of this year than it did in 2020.

On March 11, lawmakers sent the bill to the Senate, where it has been referred to the Health, Education. Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. With the Senate evenly split between the parties, the measure is likely to run into a brick wall. At this time, Senate Democrats would need to muster 60 votes to push the bill past a filibuster. One path forward for the “PRO Act” would be for the Senate to drastically change or drop the filibuster altogether, a much-discussed option that holds little chance of success at this time. Another option would be to attach the bill to a vehicle moving under so-called “budget reconciliation,” a parliamentary doctrine that shields budgetary vehicles from the filibuster rule.

AHC will track the “PRO Act” to gauge the possibility of the bill’s advancing in the Senate. In the event the bill gains traction, AHC may launch a grassroots campaign to rally opposition. In this effort, the horse industry would be joined by a variety of allies representing diverse segments of the U.S. economy, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the Farm Bureau.

Details: Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org.

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