Bill Critics Fear Could Wipe Out Independent Contractor Model Passes U.S. House

Washington D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation which critics fear could wipe out trucking’s independent contractor model on a national scale.

In a vote along party lines (224 to 194), House Democrats passed the “Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act” on Thursday.

The PRO Act includes language similar to California’s controversial Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which imposes an “ABC test” to determine the status of an independent contractor.

 

Specifically, the bill would amend the the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to include the following:

An individual performing any service shall be considered an employee and not an independent contractor, unless—

(A) the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under the contract for the performance of service and in fact; 

(B) the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and

(C) the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.

At issue, just as in AB5, is the so-called “B prong,” which classifies a worker as an “employee” of the company unless that worker “performs work outside the usual course of the business of the employer.”

 

Critics fear enforcement of such a statute could all but eliminate the owner operator model across the nation.

An amendment attached to the bill stipulates that its ABC test “does not preempt any state laws governing the wages, work hours, workers’ compensation, or unemployment insurance of employees.”

Supporters such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters were quick to issue statements commending lawmakers who helped guide the bill to passage.

“In approving the PRO Act, the House agreed to restore fairness to the economy at a time when income inequality has stifled the ability of far too many hardworking Americans to earn a decent wage that allows them to support their families,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “The PRO Act will strengthen the NLRA so that workers seeking to organize a union and negotiate higher wages and better benefits will be protected.

 

Even as supporters laud its passage, critics are taking some solace in knowing the PRO Act has very little chance to pass the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, which further raises the stakes in the 2020 election.

In January, a federal judge indefinitely blocked enforcement of AB5 on motor carriers until a lawsuit filed by the California Trucking Association (CTA) challenging the law works its way through the court system.

CTA argues the 1994 Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (F4A) blocks states from enacting such laws, and thus, allows interstate trucking companies an exemption from AB5’s statutes.

More About The PRO Act

In addition to the ABC test provisions, the PRO Act also amends the NLRA and related labor laws to extend protections to union workers.

 

Specifically it:

– expands unfair labor practices to include prohibitions against replacement of or discrimination against workers who participate in strikes,

– makes it an unfair labor practice to require or coerce employees to attend employer meetings designed to discourage union membership,

– permits workers to participate in collective or class action litigation,

– allows injunctions against employers engaging in unfair labor practices involving discharge or serious economic harm to an employee,

– expands penalties for labor law violations, including interference with the National Labor Relations Board or causing serious economic harm to an employee, and

– allows any person to bring a civil action for harm caused by labor law violations or unfair labor practices.

 


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