4 ways the PRO Act hurts small businesses

Small business owners weigh in on the bill’s impact

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), aka the “worst bill in Congress,” has arrived in the Senate after passing the House of Representatives in March.

Kraus headshot
Trey Kraus,
owner of Carlton’s ​​​​​​Men’s and Women’s Apparel

As the liaison to NRF’s Small Business Retail Council, I’ve heard from small businesses across the country that want to know how this legislation could impact them if it becomes law. Here are four ways the PRO Act hurts small businesses, as explained by owners of small retail businesses.

The PRO Act allows picketing and union coercion to come to your storefront.

Secondary boycotts, which have been illegal for decades, would be allowed if the PRO Act becomes law. Unions would be permitted to strike or boycott neutral third parties that are not directly involved in an underlying labor dispute, effectively allowing unions to picket innocent small businesses.

Trey Kraus, owner of Carlton’s Men’s and Women’s Apparel in Rehoboth Beach, Del., says, “If one of the brands I sell at my store ends up in a dispute with a labor union, passage of this bill would allow that union to come to Rehoboth to boycott and picket my store simply for selling merchandise from that brand.

“It’s not my fight, and it’s not fair to my business and my employees to subject them to the financial and emotional trauma picketing can cause. Why should it be legal to be faced with boycotts and picketing over an issue I have nothing to do with and no control over?”

Vivian Sayward of Vivacity Sportswear

The PRO Act eliminates small businesses’ ability to utilize independent contractors.

The PRO Act contains a provision that severely limits opportunities to pursue flexible work opportunities. By codifying California’s “ABC test” for classifying workers as either employees or independent contractors, the legislation would essentially prohibit small businesses from contracting with freelancers or independent contractors.

According to SBRC member Vivian Sayward of Vivacity Sportswear in San Diego, “Vivacity Sportswear could not meet our customers’ needs without vital partnerships with independent contractors. As a small business, I rely on contractors to provide specialized services that meet the needs of my business while keeping my overhead at a manageable level. The PRO Act would completely blow up my business model and make it harder for individuals to work independently.”

The PRO Act overrides the will of voters in 27 right-to-work states.

John Mormon headshot
John Morman,
owner of Celtic Tides
specialty store

Twenty-seven states have chosen to adopt right-to-work laws that give employees the free choice to decide whether to join a union without risking their jobs. The PRO Act would override the will of the voters in those states, depriving workers of the freedom to decide for themselves and forcing them to pay union dues.

John and Mary Jo Morman chose Virginia, a right-to-work state, to open their specialty store Celtic Tides after immigrating to the United States from Ireland. For Morman, the end of right-to-work protections included in the PRO Act could have devastating consequences.

“Living in a right-to-work state signifies what it means to my wife and I to pursue the American Dream,” Morman says. “The PRO Act threatens all of that. It means the removal of personal choice in our employment practices, unprecedented interference with our ability to run our own business and several other clauses that would lead us to inevitably closing our doors and the loss of jobs.”

The PRO Act makes it harder to do business in general.

The PRO Act and its more than 30 radical provisions will force small businesses to comply with numerous new burdensome federal regulations. One particularly concerning provision is the so-called “persuader rule,” which would make it harder for small businesses to secure legal advice on complex labor law matters.

Bacci headshot
Erin Calvo-Bacci, owner of CB Stuffer

If enacted, small businesses would be forced to file significant paperwork to the federal government any time they request advice on a labor matter. That even includes outreach to trade associations like NRF and state retail associations. As pandemic hardships continue, the last thing small businesses need is more complicated federal regulations and extensive paperwork.

Erin Calvo-Bacci, owner of CB Stuffer in Swampscott, Mass., was forced to overcome significant hardships related to the pandemic. “We are a small family chocolate manufacturing business selling mainly into other small family businesses. We take care of our employees, providing opportunities and relationships with community organizations. We’ve overcome a lot of hardships and burdensome legislative hurdles and cannot deal with more.”

Now is the time to make your voice heard on the PRO Act. Visit NRF’s PRO Act Action Portal to learn more about how you can get involved.

Related content

Imagining a world in which the PRO Act is law
Distribution center
How the bill’s extreme provisions could manifest in your community.
Read more
NRF in Washington: Advocacy update May 2021
Key policy priorities for the retail industry.
Read more
Retailers Say House Bill to Expand Union Powers
Small businesses
NRF says legislation passed by the House expanding labor unions' power should be rejected by the Senate.
Read more