From a labor relations standpoint, the past few years have been extremely kind to senior living operators. But a new bill in Congress might turn things around.
Democrats are now pushing legislation that would make it far easier for workers to organize, strike or sue their employers. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act also would stop employers from permanently replace striking workers. And that’s just for starters.
More than 40 Democratic senators have signed on, along with most of their House colleagues. To be sure, the measure is a bit of a longshot. Still, if eventually passed, it would mark the most significant labor law change since 1935. That’s when Congress gave workers the right to unionize.
In the House, the PRO Act was introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor; Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), chairwoman of the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee; Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), vice chair of the Education and Labor Committee; Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA).
The Senate’s companion bill was introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
The bill largely is a counter punch to recent labor-related developments at the state and federal levels that have been far more pro-business in nature. Not surprisingly, support and opposition is lining up neatly along party lines.
The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute calls the PRO Act “an important effort to bring U.S. labor law into the 21st century — giving working people more power at a time when it is desperately needed.”
Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Mackinac Center for Public Policy, counters that the proposal is “not only pro-forced unionization, it is anti-worker and anti-freedom.”
If you are finding all of this flag-waving rhetoric a bit confusing, you’re hardly alone. For what we have here is a clear case of silver-tongued spokespeople putting smoke screens in front of their true intentions. Part of the confusion no doubt stems from the innocent-sounding titles these proposals tend to wrap themselves in. But if we’re going to be honest, “Right to work” legislation tends to look a lot more like anti-union legislation. Similarly, the “Protecting the Right to Organize” act is, at its core, really about buttressing unions.
So here’s my advice: Let’s drop the subterfuge and start calling proposals from either side by what they are setting out to accomplish.
Of course, that might be more honesty than supporters on either side care to own. After all, the “Stick It To Business Owners Act” or the “Unions Can Drop Dead Act” might offer spot-on descriptions. But being associated with such harsh-sounding legislation might be difficult to explain to the children. Or for that matter, the voters.