Arizona’s building and construction industry is critical to our state’s economy, providing much-needed jobs for Arizonans while laying a solid foundation for growth throughout our communities. After making it through one of the most challenging times in recent memory, Arizona’s builders and contractors are working hard to build back stronger than ever before.
However, it appears we have a new threat to worry about, and this one has nothing to do with the pandemic. Instead, it is coming from our very own legislators in Washington, D.C., as some lawmakers—spurred on by their union donors—are calling for massive changes to federal labor law by passing the PRO Act, which would hamstring our industry and threaten the viability of small businesses across the state.
This is not just a construction issue either. This affects a wide-range of Arizona industries who are so vital to our state’s economic landscape. Small businesses would face new challenges in hiring employees, independent contractors would be forced to be deemed employees and disrupt established relationships with their employers, and manufacturers would see major interruptions in their supply chains as more and more would be incentivized to move overseas.
As for those of us in Arizona’s construction industry, the PRO Act’s sweeping changes would make it nearly impossible for members of the construction and building industry to operate. By reclassifying many independent contractors and freelance workers as full-time employees, it would threaten the freedom and flexibility many seek out in independent contracting work and makes it significantly more challenging for construction and building firms to find and hire qualified workers on a project-by-project basis.
The PRO Act would also impose hefty new fines on business owners found to be in violation of even the smallest, most technical infractions of the National Labor Relations Act. These fines could range anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000—and they could be doled out for reasons that have nothing to do with working conditions or unionization. Making matters worse, some in Congress are now trying to insert these fines and penalties into an unrelated budget bill because they know the PRO Act can’t pass on its own merits.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly have wisely withstood pressure to support this legislation. They can help Arizona businesses of all kinds by continuing to reject attempts to pass the PRO Act or any of its harmful penalties.
Tom Dunn is President of the Arizona Builders Alliance, which represents over 300 member companies, including contractors and professional service firms, serving the needs of the commercial & industrial construction industry.
These are the same tired arguments used for decades to undermine workers’ pay and rights. History says that they ultimately don’t make sense. We had some of our most properous years when unions were strong, minimum wage was several times the present rate, and workers were “employees” with rights. Arizona was known as a “right to make low wages” state in those days, but the state was no more properous than other states; it’s just that workers made less money. It is true that businesses, and workers, will go through some inconveniences when the PRO act passes, and I can’t say that every measure in it is perfect, but we must move our country towards workers getting paid well and respected if we are to ever return to properous times.