PRO Act passes House, moves on to Senate
March 10, 2021
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the PRO Act, but it appears unlikely the controversial legislation will find approval in the Senate.
On Tuesday, March 9, the House voted 225-206 in favor of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021. The bill would implement California’s ABC Test and other union-friendly changes for union elections, bargaining processes, and many other policies. The PRO Act also passed the House in the previous congressional session but stalled in the Senate.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the bill, saying it believes it would lead to the strict ABC Test being expanded to classify workers under other laws.
“We are disappointed that the House moved forward with the legislation that would jeopardize the leased owner-operator model, but we don’t expect the bill has the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate,” said Bryce Mongeon, OOIDA’s director of legislative affairs. “Regardless, we will make sure senators know where we stand on this issue, how this legislation would upend the trucking industry, and how it would harm small-business truckers.”
Earlier this week, OOIDA sent a letter to members of the House informing them about the PRO Act and how the implementation of the ABC Test could negatively affect the trucking industry.
Under the strict ABC Test, all workers are considered employees unless the hiring business demonstrates that three factors are established:
A. That the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.
B. That the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
C. That the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.
Opponents of the ABC Test say that the B prong could make it impossible for truck drivers to work as an independent contractor for a motor carrier.
“While we believe there is much that must be done to improve working conditions and compensation in trucking, the PRO Act would create confusion for drivers and motor carriers and jeopardize small-business truckers’ ability to utilize the owner-operator model,” OOIDA wrote in a letter signed by President Todd Spencer.
The ABC Test is the basis of California’s Assembly Bill 5, which was signed into law in 2019. The California Trucking Association challenged the law, and there is a preliminary injunction preventing the law from being applied to the trucking industry until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit makes a decision on the case.
Repeal overtime exemption, OOIDA says
OOIDA agrees that misclassification is an issue in the trucking industry, often involving lease-purchase agreements. The Association told lawmakers they could help working conditions and compensation for truck drivers without abandoning the traditional owner-operator model.
“If Congress really wants to help improve working conditions and compensation for truckers, it could start by repealing the overtime exemption for employee truck drivers,” OOIDA wrote. “Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, truckers are specifically exempt from guaranteed overtime pay. This provision makes it the law that a driver’s time is less valuable than other workers, and it should be eliminated.
“Trucking is a challenging career, and there are many changes that should be made to improve compensation and working conditions for drivers. We look forward to working with Congress to navigate these challenging issues to find solutions that raise workplace standards for all drivers in the industry.” LL