By Arjun Rondla
Cross-posted from Chamber Business News.
Leaders of Arizona’s business community on Monday urged the U.S. Senate not to adopt the Protecting the Right to Organize, or PRO Act, legislation they say would harm job creation efforts.
At a press conference at the offices of the Arizona chapter of the Associated General Contractors, the business group leaders said the bill would eviscerate Arizona’s right-to-work law, which makes union membership voluntary and not a condition of employment.
“The only thing hotter than the temperature is Arizona’s economy,” said Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Danny Seiden. “Why would we want to put that all at risk?”
Michelle Ahlmer, executive director of the Arizona Retailers Association, said her industry would be unable to continue recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic if the PRO Act passes.
“Before the pandemic, our industry had record highs in profits, wage growth, and employment. As we climb out from the last 18 months, we need every tool to get back on our feet,” Ahlmer said. “We simply cannot add to the challenging economic environment by passing the PRO Act. The PRO Act is a harmful bill that would essentially give unions free rein to wreak havoc on local businesses.”
National Federation of Independent Businesses Arizona state director Chad Heinrich said the PRO Act’s independent contractor status test would hurt many Arizona small businesses, whose employees prefer the flexibility of working as independent contractors.
“California adopted a strict three-part test to classify independent contractor status. This has been a significant problem for California small businesses,” Heinrich said. “When California first adopted this test, they had to immediately carve out dozens of exceptions because it was unworkable. The PRO Act has no exceptions.”
The bill, a priority of the organized labor movement and progressive activists, has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a party-line vote and President Joe Biden has supported the legislation. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he’ll bring the bill to a vote in his chamber if it can secure 50 cosponsors. Arizona senators Kyrsten Sinema, D, and Mark Kelly, D, so far have refused to sign-on to the legislation.
“We’d like to thank Sens. Sinema and Kelly for being willing to listen to all sides on this issue,” Associated General Contractors Arizona chapter President David Martin said. “We’re grateful they’re taking a pragmatic approach to this very complicated matter that involves many employers and employees in Arizona.”
Polling data indicates the bill does not have broad support among the American public.
A recent survey found that 63% of Arizona voters did not want unions to have more influence, and 74 % of them were concerned about losing right-to-work protections and forcing workers to pay union dues to obtain a job.
Right-to-work, which allows for employees to work without being obligated to join a union, has been protected by Arizona’s constitution since 1946.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 5.3 percent of Arizona workers are members of unions, less than half the national average.