Iowa’s small business recovery from the coronavirus pandemic remains very fragile. But now there’s a new threat to their survival. Congress could soon pass a disastrous bill that would tilt the playing field toward labor unions—and against small businesses and the hundreds of thousands of Iowans they employ.
The bill in question is the so-called PRO Act, which has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and may soon come up for consideration in the U.S. Senate. President Biden has endorsed the bill, and labor unions across Iowa have rallied behind it. But the overwhelming majority of small businesses – 79%, according to a survey from my organization – oppose the PRO Act in the strongest possible terms.
Small businesses are like families and their number one asset is always their employees. They know the PRO Act would hold back the post-pandemic recovery, kill jobs, and hurt the state’s economy for generations to come. It would do so by burdening them with costly regulations and forcing them to jump through expensive legal hoops, all of which would make it harder to reward their workers, hire new ones, and even keep their doors open.
At its core, the PRO Act is nothing more than a labor union wish-list. Unions are upset that their private-sector membership has plummeted, falling from over 20% in the 1980s to less than 7% today. In Iowa, only 3.8% of the private sector workforce belongs to a union. Enter the bill, which would overturn nearly 75 years of labor law and create a new system where unions would dictate how thousands of iowa small businesses hire or retain their employees.
To start, the bill would repeal Iowa’s “right to work” law, which protects workers who aren’t union members from being forced to pay dues. If the PRO Act passes, employees of certain small businesses can be forced in to paying union fees without their consent.. About three-quarters of small businesses support right-to-work laws, which have served Iowa well for nearly 75 years.
The PRO Act also takes away worker privacy. Currently, when unions try to organize a business, workers vote in a secret ballot. This protects them from intimidation by union officials and follows the same voting system that’s used in federal, state, and local elections. Under the PRO Act, however, unions could bypass the secret ballot and force workers to vote in plain view of union bosses. Their privacy would be eliminated, and so would their protection from various intimidation tactics.
In a similar vein, the bill forces small businesses to give unions sensitive personal information about their workers. Unions want this information so they can pressure people into joining. But workers deserve to know that their employer is protecting their privacy. More than 9 in 10 small businesses oppose this provision and want to ensure their employees’ information remains confidential.
It keeps getting worse. The PRO Act rolls back small businesses’ ability to hire independent contractors. It also lets unions picket small business suppliers and customers who are not involved in labor disputes, which could lead to major disruptions in Iowa communities. The list keeps going. While the specifics are different, every part of the PRO Act would have the same effect: Prop up labor union bosses at the expense of small businesses and the thousands of employees they work with on a daily basis.
Iowa small businesses are counting on the U.S. Senate to stop cold this egregious power play. Instead, they should focus on pro-growth small business issues that help small businesses move forward not backward.