Director of Policy for Beacon Impact, Ron Shultis Discusses Why the PROAct Is Bad

Director of Policy for Beacon Impact, Ron Shultis Discusses Why the PROAct Is Bad


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed the Director of Policy for Beacon Impact Ron Shultis to the newsmakers line to weigh in on the PRO Act bill, occupational licensing, and the pushback it’s receiving from Rep. Diana Harshbarger of Tennessee with her new bill.

Leahy: We are joined now on the newsmaker line by Ron Shultis Director of Policy for Beacon Impact. Welcome, Ron.

Shultis: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Leahy: Tell us what’s the difference between Beacon Impact and the Beacon Center of Tennessee?

Shultis: Sure. Beacon Impact is our sister advocacy arm of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, which is the state free-market think tank here located in Nashville. Under Beacon Impact is where we do all of our advocacy on bills and trying to support free-market legislation.

Leahy: I think that the Beacon Center is a 501 (c) (3) and Beacon Impact is a 501 (c) (4)?

Shultis: That is correct.

Leahy: One of the bills that you’re talking about is the PRO Act. Tell us what it is and tell us why it’s bad.

Shultis: Sure. So this is one of the many terrible bills going through Congress right now. It’s already past the House. It’s sitting in the Senate. Essentially what it does is it will totally set back our economy in the midst of while we’re having shortages and all kinds of things by doing a couple of items that totally tip the balance in favor of large labor unions.

The first thing that it does is it abolishes the state right to work laws, which essentially would mean if you don’t want to join the union, you would be forced to pay union dues or you could be fired. Currently, in a right-to-work state like Tennessee, it’s your choice whether or not you choose to join the union or not and pay union dues.

So it protects the worker on both ends. If this were to pass, that would no longer be the case. If you chose not to join a union, you would have to force the pay dues whether you choose to or not, or you could be fired. Another thing it could do is totally sit back our gig economy by implementing California is what’s called their ABC Test, which makes it much harder for somebody to work as a gig worker.

Which if you think about, for example, last year during all the lockdowns and shutdowns when so many people had to work as, for example, an Instacart delivering groceries or Uber, that becomes much more difficult. And what that does is it nationalizes what California did, which is obviously never a good thing with their ABC Test. And that’s just a couple of things that it does.

Leahy: That bill is working so well for California. Not. What a disaster that is.

Shultis: Right. Exactly. And when California passed it, you can go back and look into some of the liberal media articles in 2019 about all these writers for liberal publications and Vox complaining and realizing that then they were fired because they were freelance writers.

And then once that passed while living in California, they had to become an employee. And then that place where they would contract with had to let them go.

So they had to add all kinds of exemptions for freelance writers, DJs for weddings, and all that because so many people rose up in arms against it. But the national version, the PRO Act, doesn’t have those extensions. So it’s even worse than what California did.

Leahy: Now here we have a newly elected state representative U.S. Representative named Representative Harshbarger. And she introduced a bill that basically is designed to push back against this kind of stuff. Tell us about that bill.

Shultis: That’s right. She introduced a bill that we’re supportive of. And what it does there are these new grants that the federal government created and states can apply for these grants. But the problem is that sometimes the federal government incentivizes states to adopt bad occupational licensing, which is essentially the government’s permission to do a job.

Well, if you want to get these grants, then you may have to create a new occupational license, which makes it harder for a Tennessean to get that job, which is kind of the exact opposite of the point of these grants. And so what she did is introduced a bill called the Freedom to Work Act, which directs the federal government to review its policies around the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act grants and say, are we incentivizing states to adopt these unnecessary licenses and repeal those rules and incentives in the system?

And then also, it requires a report to Congress to look for better ways to do so. And when states apply for these funds, they would have to show, how their state like here in Tennessee and how we are working to remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to get a job.

For example, here in Tennessee, we require a government license to do over 100 low-income occupations. In recent years, we’ve gotten rid of some. We used to require a license to shampoo hair, something most of us do every day. It used to require 300 hours of schooling to learn how to shampoo hair as an example.

And so what we could do is show how we remove those barriers, making it easier for people to get to work or get a job, start a business, and qualify for those funds.

Now in a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, that bill introduced by Representative Harshberger from the First Congressional District of Tennessee. That bill’s going to go nowhere, isn’t it?

Shultis: You would think so. But hopefully, this has one issue around occupational licensing that has gotten some bipartisan support. For example, both the Obama administration and the Trump administration, through the Department of Commerce, have told the state to look at these and peel back some of these requirements.

So hopefully that this is something that both our Democrat House and Senate will take a look at as something that can be, yey, these funds are supposed to make it easier for people to get jobs and how the federal government incentivizing states to make it harder. So hopefully this is something that we’ll get.

Leahy: But, you know, I doubt that there’s a single Democrat co-sponsor of this bill is there?

Shultis: Not that I’m aware of it.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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IWF’s Senior Policy Analyst Patrice Onwuka Outlines Biden’s Efforts to Unionize Independent Contractors and Gig Workers

IWF’s Senior Policy Analyst Patrice Onwuka Outlines Biden’s Efforts to Unionize Independent Contractors and Gig Workers


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed the Independent Women’s Forum Senior Policy Analyst Patrice Onwuka to the newsmakers line to explains the consequences of the Biden administration’s PRO Act that would ultimately destroy independent contractors and gig workers.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line by a good friend, Patrice Onwuka with the Independent Women’s Forum. Patrice, there you go again, (Onwuka chuckles) using logic to dispute what the Biden administration is doing. You have a piece about the gig economy and how Biden wants to ruin that.

Onwuka: I do. Actually, I’ve been writing quite a lot about what’s happening. We’ve got 57 million Americans who are employed on their own terms. They are freelancers. They are independent contractors. Maybe they’ve left an industry but have a ton of knowledge, and they contract their services and their work out to different companies.

Well, the Biden administration has a problem with that. They don’t like independent contractors because they cannot unionize those workers. Those workers are not employees and they don’t want to be employees. They want the flexibility to create their own schedules.

They want to have their own client roster. They want to carve out the work that is important to them. Unfortunately, the Bite administration is doing everything they can through the regulatory process as well as through the legislative process, to make it difficult to continue to be an independent contractor across the country.

Leahy: Well, it works so well in California, though. (Laughter)

Onwuka: All the best ideas come out of California right? (Chuckles) Wrong. What happened is California passed the bill called AB5 which changed the standard to determine whether a worker as an employee or an independent contractor.

Overnight we had stories of translators, florists, and small business owners saying they lost income by upwards of 30 to 50 percent. All of their clients dropped them because they were worried about this new law that made it difficult for someone to be an independent contractor and to be classified that way.

The way the law works is that you would have to hire that person as a full employee, give them all the benefits, all of the overtime pay, or the minimum wage pay. And that’s an increase in cost for businesses. There’s a reason why businesses choose independent contracting rather than employees.

And so lots of California workers were hit terribly. They lost a lot of income and contracts. And this is even before the pandemic. And of course, the pandemic just made things worse. So obviously, the Biden administration would want to take a bad model and make it nationwide.

And that is what’s going on. You’ve got a federal bill called the PRO Act that could be passed that would make this federal law. And we see the Department of Labor also instituting some regulatory changes in a similar vein.

Leahy: Who in the Biden administration or the Bike maladministration, as I call it, is pushing this stupid idea?

Onwuka: The Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh. He is a huge union guy. He spent decades and unions back in Massachusetts. I’m very familiar with him. I grew up there and he is parroting everything President Biden is saying in wanting to push forward these changes.

The Department of Labor, as I mentioned, it upended a Trump our rule that was actually really good for independent contractors. And so the Biden administration is saying, no. They’re working with Congress to push forward on this agenda. Michael, let me just underscore what’s going on here.

There are serious politics driving this. Unions are behind this push. They pretty much wrote the legislation in California. And they are now pushing for the PRO Act at the federal level because it would expand the number of union workers.

It would take away our rights to choose whether or not we want to pay union dues. We call that right to work. And it would make it very difficult to be an independent contractor. And just so that folks know, independent contractors are not just building your houses.

These are small business owners across the country and people who translate from Spanish to English in courtrooms for example. People who are advertisers and maybe their graphic designers. They play mall Santas at Christmas time.

At IWF, we have talked to these workers in California, regular folks who suddenly saw their livelihood’s cut because of bad policy at the state level. Imagine what that would do across the country.

Leahy: What’s the likelihood that this very bad, very stupid bill will pass in the House? It’s passed the House, hasn’t it? It’s in the Senate now?

Onwuka: Yes, it passed the House by a very close vote. Unfortunately, a few conservatives did support it.

Leahy: Who supported it?

Onwuka: I don’t have the list in front of me.

Leahy: But there were some Republicans that voted for this?

Onwuka: There were a few union-friendly states.

Leahy: Oh, my goodness.

Onwuka: And then in the Senate, we are leaning on just a couple of handful of senators. Senator Sinema and as well as Manchin of West Virginia. I believe he might have come out in support of it.

Leahy: Well, he’s a big union guy, though, right? He’s a big union guy.

Onwuka: Yes.

Leahy: Typically the usual suspects to stop the idiocy of the Democrats are Senator Sinema from Arizona and Senator Manchin from West Virginia. On this one, Manchin is all unioned up. So he’s not going to do it. But Sinema might.

Onwuka: Mike Kelly I believe of Arizona is well, could also be one of those is voting.

Leahy: Because he’s up for reelection for a full six-year term in 2022. That is very, very interesting. Well, for self-protection, (Onwuka laughs) if this thing passes first, will there be litigation to stop it immediately?

Onwuka: Absolutely. I absolutely think so. I think there are some public interest law firms that are thinking through legal strategies right now to challenge the law. I think what we saw in California was also a valid initiative that was funded by a lot of the gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft.

They have a very big dog in this fight. Not surprising because all those drivers are independent contractors. The people who deliver your Uber Eats are independent contractors. So you’ve got the gig economy. I think they would be mobilized in a legal fight as well.

Leahy: In California did that initiative make it on the ballot or is it in the process?

Onwuka: It did and it passed by over a margin of 60 percent. Voters said, no, we do not want these gig workers to be classified as employees. That was a win for the gig workers.

Leahy: When did that happen? And where does the law stand there now in California?

Onwuka: It happened in November. Last November it was on the ballot. It was a great win there. And so the law still stands. What happened is that the law became so sweeping and it was meant just to hit the Ubers in the list.

But it was written so broadly that every single occupation, you’re talking about hundreds of occupations and millions of workers in California got swept up. Some different groups are able to get exemptions from the law.

And then another law was passed with hundreds of more exemptions. But there are still many people in California who still are under the impact of AB5.

Leahy: Why didn’t that referendum throw that law out?

Onwuka: It was narrowly written to focus specifically on the gig economy. It wasn’t just broad for everyone. At IWF we liked the spirit of the ballot initiative but we also were worried about all of those other people who were not exempted.

And you know what, Michael? You shouldn’t have to use money to lobby to get some sort of exemption. If the law was smart on its own, if it was good policy, you wouldn’t need an exemption.

Leahy: I totally agree with that.

Onwuka: From a principled standpoint, we need to be fighting for more opportunity, more work, and more flexible work for the moms, for the dads, and for the people taking care of aging parents who really want that flexible environment.

Leahy: You obviously will never get a job in the Biden administration, Patrice, because you have common sense!

Onwuka: Well, I don’t want to be there. And yes, I’ve got common sense. And that’s what we’re pushing for. Just common sense solutions for what’s going on in the workforce.

Leahy: If this passes, there will be massive resistance to it around the country I would think. Don’t you?

Onwuka: There would be. It’s scary to wait until after the law passes to find out what’s in it. We saw what happened with Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act.

Leahy: You’ve got to pass it to learn what’s in it. Pelosi’s famous words.

Listen to the second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.











State Rep. Chris Todd of Jackson, Tennessee Outlines His Resolution Regarding Right to Work in the State

State Rep. Chris Todd of Jackson, Tennessee Outlines His Resolution Regarding Right to Work in the State


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Representative (R), Chris Todd of Jackson, to the studio to discuss his resolution that would result in constitutional amendment giving workers the freedom to not be mandated to join a union.

Leahy: In the studio with us state representative Chris Todd from Jackson. Chris. You have a resolution, a very important one for a state Constitutional Amendment about the right to work. Tell us about that. What is it? Why is it important? Where is it going?

Todd: A citizen’s right to work without being under the command if you will and an obligation to pay union dues is enshrined in our law. And we want to firmly plant that in our constitution so that it would be very difficult to ever be repealed and it would also be a significant pushback against the federal overreach.

And we know right now the liberals in Washington are trying to pass the Pro Act which will basically attempt to do away with our state laws dealing with right to work and force every worker in our state that is in a union shop to have to pay union dues and belong to that union and support their liberal ideas.

Leahy: The Supreme Court ruled on this and said, they can’t do that. And so they know that trying to create a federal statute to force union membership. That sounds very unamerican. But everything that the Democrats in Washington are doing seems to be unAmerican. This is a smart resolution it seems to me because it’s a statute but this will make it even stronger by making it a constitutional amendment.

Todd: Absolutely.

Leahy: Tell us about that process. Where this is in that process? How does the process work?

Todd: It’s a two General Assembly process. We passed this last year in the House and Senate. This year it has a higher bar in both the House and Senate to pass has to be a two-thirds majority.

Leahy: So let me step back. In order to get a constitutional a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for ratification by voters it has to go through a two-step process.

Todd: Yes. Two separate general assemblies.

Leahy: Okay, and so in the first one, it’s just needs a majority vote?

Todd: That’s correct.

Leahy: So that one needs a two-thirds vote. Where are we in that process?

Todd: The Senate has passed it. They’ve already finished their business on this particular resolution.

Leahy: It was a more than two-thirds vote?

Todd: Yes, and then I’m working this through the House. I’ve gotten it to a matter of fact this morning. It’ll be on the calendar and rules to be set for him to be heard on the house floor next week. I take that back. I’m mixing this up with my other bill. It’s going through the committees and has gone through the first committee process and we’ll go to another committee. And then when it comes to the House floor will need a two-thirds majority. And then it’s set for the next gubernatorial election, which will be in the fall of 2022. It’ll be on the ballot for the citizens of the state to make the decision.

Leahy: So that would be November of 2022.

Todd: Yes.

Leahy: The governor does not need to sign these resolutions. Is that correct?

Todd: I believe that’s correct.

Leahy: I love this about the way our constitutions are designed. State legislatures on their own have great powers. Have great powers. And this is I think a very smart exercise of those powers.

Todd: Entrusted by the people. And again, we have to be very close to the people running every two years in the house You never get away from the people. And that’s the beauty of this. You have to stay in touch with the people and know what their feelings are and know what their concerns are. And then you put the power in their hands not only from an election standpoint but then from this standpoint to amend their constitution, I mean it is ingenious.

Leahy: There’s a good likelihood that it will make it to the floor for a vote and it’s a good likelihood that it will receive the required two-thirds majority.

Todd: I would say so.

Leahy: So then it’s framed in an amendment for the ballot, right? It’s a proposition that is put on the ballot. And then voters will have in November of 2022 the opportunity to vote for or against it.

Todd: That is correct.

Leahy: Let me just summarize it. This is a constitutional amendment for the state of Tennessee which proposes adding a provision establishing the right to work regardless of status of affiliation with any labor union or employee organization. Now if this makes it on the ballot, I’m going to vote for it. What’s gonna happen? Do you anticipate that if it makes it on the ballot will the left-wing billionaires from California and Illinois and New York and all those states that are crashing and burning, will they put a big campaign on it to try to get voters to reject it?

Todd: I’m sure there will be an effort. I’m sure there will be a concerted effort by the labor unions primarily to thwart this because this is their lifeline. money is their lifeline. They live and breathe it. And it’s all about collecting those union dues. That’s their whole interest completely. This is already a law in the state. One of the arguments are in committee is that this may damage our efforts in my area to attract businesses or two for businesses to expand that are already labor union shops.

And we’ve already got the law on the books. It’s not prohibiting anybody right now. They’re coming to the state. businesses as you know are flocking to this state because of the climate that over the last 10 or 11 years the conservative General Assembly has crafted and set forward such a great economy and a great working condition for this state. We’re very attractive as you had other guests on this weed from California and other places. It’s just it shows exactly what the results are when you have the conservative ideas work and prosper in a state.

Leahy: So once it was before one of the committees that was arguing against this was making that argument.

Todd: It was a member.

Leahy: A member was making that argument. Democrat or Republican.

Todd: A Democrat.

Leahy: I’m shocked! I’m shocked! That it was a Democrat making that. so let me just say this for the record. If there is a business out there anyone in the United States listening to this program and you are deciding not to come to Tennessee because you don’t like our right-to-work laws. I say good riddance, stay away. Don’t take your bad stupid defective ideas and bring them to Tennessee.

Todd: Absolutely. We have unions in Tennessee. And a lot of places they are free to organize. They are free to work their contracts with the employers. some employers even invite them. That’s just their business model. perfectly fine. We don’t have a thing against. that we just feel like it’s the citizens right not to belong to that organization. It’s no different than if we passed a law saying every citizen had to belong to the Rotary Club for some reason. That’s not our authority or place. We need to protect citizens’ rights not to belong to those groups.

Leahy: Yeah, it’s sort of interesting. It does segue a little bit into this idea of who runs Tennessee. Do Tennesseans run Tennessee? Oh do or do Fortune 500 companies run by people who are pretty woke? Who runs Tennessee?

Todd: We the people.

Leahy: I think we the people should I like that. I like that a lot. People talk about well, we’ve got to attract new businesses. I don’t think we need to do anything to attract them more beyond what we do right now. Low regulations low state income taxes. No state income taxes on a personal basis. None. Zero, zip, nada.

Todd: Yep, and we’re cutting more taxes. I mean we’ve cut 675 million dollars in taxes on the citizens of this state since 2011.

Leahy: Look, the Democrat who made that argument to me, that’s another reason to vote for it. It will keep out these Fortune 500 companies that don’t like what we do here.

Todd: Absolutely.

Leahy: Or their divisions there of. Well, look, I think this is fantastic. I’m delighted to have you in here. How much longer do you anticipate this session of the Tennessee General Assembly will continue. We’re March 11 today.

Todd: It’s hard to predict. It’s always hard to predict in any given year. This year’s a little more unusual for a couple of reasons with the week that we had to take off for snow and ice. That was quite unusual because of travel. And being the start of a general assembly it sometimes takes a little longer. I’m expecting at least the end of April. I really think it’d probably be the middle of May. Although the Senate has already talked about closing committees the end of this month, which is got a lot of people scrambling to get good legislation through. But that’s just a guess right now.

Leahy: That makes sense to me. And it’s so in terms of life, you know, April end of April beginning May? Then you go back. You’re running your business and you don’t come back again unless it’s a special session till January?

Todd: Correct. Which during my term already I’ve had three special sessions.

Leahy: There you go. There you go. State Representative Chris Todd, it’s great having you in here.

Todd: Good to be with you.

Leahy: And come back next month sometime. Give us an update just before we close out and give us the final report on how well the Tennessee General Assembly did during this session. I think it’s doing a lot of good stuff.

Todd: I think so, too. We’ve got a lot of good ideas. I’m working on some legislation for retired police officers.

Leahy: And so there are some good things. We are going to talk about that next time state representative Chris Todd. Thanks for joining us. I hope you have a great day.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio