During a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) hearing on Thursday, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) voiced his opposition to the PRO Act on the basis that it would undermine worker freedom.
The so-called “Protecting the Right to Organize Act” is a Democrat-backed piece of legislation which aims to address issues related to labor union participation. The bill is widely seen as a top priority among congressional progressives.
Opponents of the bill say that the law would undermine secret ballot elections, violate the privacy of workers and force workers to pay union dues.
Tuberville opened his allotted portion of the hearing with a statement of opposition to the bill.
“The PRO Act represents a massive power grab to override the will of the voters,” said Tuberville. “Federal power grabs like these are unconstitutional and go against our entire system of government. The PRO Act would overrule the right-to-work laws across the country and force tens of millions of employees to join a union.”
He continued, “Currently, 27 states have right-to-work laws, and Alabama is one of them. Right-to-work laws give workers freedom. And more importantly, it gives workers the freedom to choose whether to unionize or not.”
Tuberville warned that scrapping right-to-work laws would have a significant negative impact on the Yellowhammer State’s automotive manufacturing industry.
“Alabama’s right-to-work law has been a huge benefit for our state because we’re in the car business,” he advised. “We’ve got about six or seven car businesses and manufacturers – Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, Mercedes, 40,000 manufacturing jobs. We make a million cars and trucks a year; $8.2 billion dollars. And we’re not union[ized]. But forcing unionization on every worker in every sector many industries would grind to a halt, especially in Alabama. Employer costs would skyrocket, which could lead to a loss of jobs.”
The senator continued. “On top of that, according to the State Policy Network, the PRO Act would negatively affect 57 million American workers who call themselves freelancers. Unions to some degree, they have helped this country, they have helped the country. However, in 2021, there are multiple government entities that exist purely to uphold workplace, safety standards and protect workers. We’ve got the Department of Labor. We’ve got OSHA. Are we going to start unions and just close that down?”
Prior to questioning, Tuberville expressed that he believes joining a labor union should be voluntary and that the decision should be made by the individual worker.
“We need to give workers the ability to choose,” he argued. “This is a free country. Choice creates competition. Competition breeds success. Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union. I believe in that statement but the PRO Act would tip the scales.”
Tuberville inquired with Jyoti Sarolia, a California hotel owner, about the effect the labor legislation would have on her business. Sarolia testified that if passed, the PRO Act would harm small businesses like hers and limit the job opportunities of workers.
“Ms. Sarolia, you mentioned that in your testimony COVID-19, pandemic hit businesses, especially hard,” acknowledged Tuberville. “If the PRO Act is passed, how will its provisions slow down this much-needed recovery. And why?”
Sarolia answered, “You know, more so business. It’s like 25 years ago, we got in. I owned my first hotel in 1996 thinking that I would be able to employ people in my community. If the PRO Act passes, I think the control that I had overseeing my operation would be given to a third party like the unionization or even our franchisor — someone that sits 4,000 miles away from me wouldn’t be able to control that.”
“If the PRO Act passes, I don’t think we would be having a business to run anymore. That would be number one because the scare of anybody wanting to own under the PRO Act, I don’t think it’s going to be a small business and I don’t think it’s going to be an American Dream story, and I definitely don’t think I’m going to be an entrepreneur,” she concluded.
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News