Report: Unions, Dems to Rake in Billions From PRO Act

Unions could spend $3 billion on politics every election cycle

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May 7, 2021

President Joe Biden and Democratic groups could see a surge in donations if they are able to pass landmark labor reforms that would force workers to pay union dues, according to a report.

The White House has made the PRO Act a centerpiece of its agenda in the opening days of the Biden administration. Biden has committed to being the "most pro-union president," but labor groups are not the only ones who will benefit from the elimination of right-to-work laws and collective bargaining reforms. Democratic candidates and liberal groups could see political and lobbying spending "increase to nearly $3 billion per two-year cycle," according to a report from the Institute for the American Worker.

"If you are a progressive then you will think that this is the greatest thing ever as it will drive resources to achieving your objectives," report author Nathan Mehrens said.  "If you are a conservative, you should be concerned for the same reason."

The act would overturn right-to-work laws in 27 states and force local workers to join unions as a condition of employment. The injection of mandatory dues would provide an overnight boost to the coffers of labor unions that have hemorrhaged members in the past three decades. Unions could see annual payments from workers nearly double under the PRO Act, according to the report.

"Unions that are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Labor already receive over $11 billion per year in dues and fees," the report states. "If labor organizations can increase their membership to the level that existed in 1983, the dues they receive could, under a conservative estimate, exceed $20 billion."

The influx of new dues money could also expand the political and campaign influence of organized labor, which has been one of the Democratic Party's most reliable allies. Unions were major financial backers of Biden's presidential run. They spent an estimated $27.5 million backing the Biden campaign and nearly $250 million supporting Democratic candidates overall.

The PRO Act would also provide a massive membership boost to labor unions, which are currently experiencing low membership numbers. A little more than 14 million private and public sector employees belong to unions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Biden, who has repeatedly called on Congress to pass the plan and whose administration considers the act part of its infrastructure program, said that 60 million Americans will join a labor union "if they get a chance."

First Amendment rights could be implicated by mandatory dues imposed by the act. Mehrens raised concerns over the act's forcing workers to "financially support unions regardless of whether they agree with the positions taken by these unions."

"No one should be compelled as a condition of employment to support a third party with which they do not agree," he said.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the act in early March, and the White House has repeatedly urged the Senate to pass the legislation. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) has announced his support for the act, but three other moderate Democratic senators—Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), and Mark Warner (Va.)—have yet to back it. Even if Senate Democrats were unified, the bill is highly unlikely to garner enough Republican support to bypass the filibuster.

In his address to Congress, Biden called for the passage of the act alongside an increased federal minimum wage. "The guys and women on Wall Street, Wall Street didn't build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions build the middle class," he said. "And that's why I'm calling on Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act, the PRO Act, and send it to my desk to support the right to unionize."