February 10, 2020

House-passed legislation would worsen senior living workforce challenges, group says

Legislation passed Thursday in the House of Representatives would result in major labor law changes that would worsen the workforce challenges affecting senior living operators if it becomes law, Argentum President and CEO James Balda said Friday.

H.R. 2474, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, was passed by the House 224–194 after having been introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) in May. The legislation had 218 co-sponsors.

“Argentum opposes the PRO Act legislation and is working closely with our coalition / industry partners to inform lawmakers of our concerns regarding this bill,” Balda said.

The bill, according to sponsoring lawmakers, amends the National Labor Relations Act and related labor laws to extend protections to union workers by:

  • Revising the definition of “employee” and “supervisor” to try to prevent employers from classifying employees as exempt from labor law protections;
  • Expanding the definition of unfair labor practices to include prohibitions against replacement of or discrimination against workers who participate in strikes;
  • Making it an unfair labor practice to require or coerce employees to attend employer meetings designed to discourage union membership;
  • Permitting workers to participate in collective or class action litigation;
  • Allowing injunctions against employers deemed to be engaging in unfair labor practices involving the discharge of or “serious economic harm” to an employee;
  • Expanding penalties for labor law violations, including interference with the National Labor Relations Board or the causing of “serious economic harm” to an employee; and
  • Allowing anyone to bring a civil action for alleged harm caused by alleged labor law violations or alleged unfair labor practices.

If the act becomes law, according to Scott, who is chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, “workers will have greater power to stand together and join a union, companies will be held accountable for violating the law, and workers will be able to decide whether to form a union without interference.”

Balda, however, said the legislation “would effectively repeal right-to-work provisions currently used in 27 states, strip workers of essential rights and violate employees’ rights to privacy, potentially exacerbating the workforce challenges that we already face in senior living.”

The PRO Act also is opposed by pro-business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, but it is supported by the Service Employees International Union, members of which work in assisted living communities, skilled nursing facilities, home health settings and other workplaces.

Companion legislation was introduced in May in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). The act has 40 co-sponsors in the Senate, where it was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Lisa Bowers – McKnight Senior Living

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