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Can PRO Act Get Democratic Support in Senate?

Liam James Doyle/NPR

Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill introduced by Congressman Bobby Scott that hopes to remedy the problem of full-time workers being misclassified as independent contractors.

But now the bill is languishing in the Senate.

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act sailed through the House with bipartisan support, and labor leaders are hopeful about its prospects in the Senate, where Virginia Senator Tim Kaine is a co-sponsor.

But a handful of Senate Democrats have yet to commit to supporting the bill. One of those is Senator Mark Warner, who says he has concerns about part of the bill aimed at solving the problem of worker misclassification.  Warner spoke to reporters on a conference call Monday.  "When there were efforts, for example, in California, to turn all independent contractors, so-called gig workers, into traditional employees, the overwhelming majority of Californians voted that bill down, what was called in the PRO Act the ABC test."

Congressman Bobby Scott says the ABC test is a way to use three questions to get a sense of when employers are misclassifying workers to save a buck and deny benefits.  "It's a clear and objective standard when you're an employee and when you're an independent contractor," Scott says.  "But many employers have abused the classification and called people independent contractors when in fact they are not and avoided a lot of expenses and denied the employees the right to organize. This fixes that problem."

Warner says there are parts of the bill he likes, and he says he hopes he can work with other senators to make changes that would allow him to vote in favor of it if it gets to the Senate floor.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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