For more than 60 years, the Coolidge Chamber of Commerce has worked to promote local businesses and drive economic development in our city. Over the generations, Coolidge businesses of all sizes have overcome extraordinary challenges, including the most recent economic slowdown following the global pandemic. Now, however, our members face an existential threat that could wipe them out entirely.
The worst part about it is that this new threat is not posed by normal market forces, changes in consumer demand or even COVID-19. Instead, it is coming from our very own lawmakers in Washington, D.C., as the vast majority of Senate Democrats are pushing to pass major changes to decades of established labor law.
The ironically titled PRO Act (short for “Protecting the Right to Organize”) is being pitched as a way to protect workers’ ability to unionize when in reality it has been written with the intention of growing union power and influence, including over workers themselves. In the process, it would create tremendous new challenges, costs and liabilities for local businesses that would negatively impact job creation, economic investment and the strength of local communities.
Among other huge changes, the PRO Act would remove workers’ right to a secret ballot during union elections and force employers to divulge their employees’ personal information to union officials. These provisions chip away at workers’ privacy and freedom to choose whether or not to unionize, making it easier for unions to employ strong-arm tactics — even at a worker’s own home.
Even worse, the PRO Act would erase all right-to-work laws off the books in Arizona and throughout the country. That means Arizona workers could once again be forced to pay union dues, regardless of whether they voted to unionize, or else lose their jobs.
At the same time, the PRO Act would enact a number of sweeping changes to federal labor law that would make it harder for local businesses to operate, expand or grow their workforces. It would make it nearly impossible for businesses to work with independent contractors or freelance workers by applying a failed California policy that has driven businesses, workers and investments out of that state.
This policy, known as the “ABC test,” would establish new criteria for classifying workers, making it significantly harder for Arizonans who work as independent contractors to maintain that status. Not only could that make it more difficult for local business owners to contract out necessary aspects of their operations, it could also deprive Arizonans of a critical source of income that has been especially useful during these turbulent economic times.
Regulatory changes such as those outlined above don’t exist in a vacuum — they come at a direct cost to business owners, workers and communities. For example, according to a recent report from the American Action Forum, the PRO Act’s “independent worker reclassification provision alone could cost as much as $57 billion nationwide.” The report also lists Arizona as one of the right-to-work states “that would be most negatively affected by the PRO Act.”
If Congress passes the PRO Act, it will hurt our local businesses while removing rights from workers rather than improving their ability to organize collectively. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly have so far chosen not to support this bill by not signing on as cosponsors as so many of their Democratic colleagues have. They should show they truly stand with Arizona businesses by outright opposing it.
Matt McCormick is president of the Coolidge Chamber of Commerce.