PRO Act Would Hurt America’s Global Competitiveness and Democrats’ Prospects in Midterms

What I learned from my last campaign for the U.S. Senate, which took place during a midterm election cycle, is that our party faces an uphill battle next November. The challenges we face both domestically and abroad will impact the outcome.

We are living through unique times, with the COVID-19 pandemic creating economic uncertainty throughout the country. It is an open question how this continued uncertainty may threaten our global economic competitiveness. Now, more than ever, it is important that Democrats pursue policies that help rebuild and grow our economy. In doing so, we will position our party to be successful in the midterm elections, where the party in power tends to lose congressional seats.

If the United States maintains its global economic competitiveness, our economy will continue to grow, jobs will be created and we can deliver real results for the American people. For this, Democrats will be rewarded at the ballot box in 2022.

However, China, our primary economic rival, is investing in its own economy, with the goal of doubling its size by 2035. If we are not careful, China’s economic growth will come at the expense of America’s, which is why it is so vital that our party focus on legislation that builds the U.S. economy and sustains our economic competitiveness.

I strongly support workers’ and labor unions’ rights to organize within the confines of existing U.S. labor law, but the Protecting the Right to Organize Act goes too far. It will have unintended consequences on workers and small business owners that harm our ability to economically compete with other countries.

While our global competitors are focused on proven drivers of economic growth like investments in infrastructure or lowering tax burdens, the PRO Act would risk up to 8.5 percent of America’s gross domestic product and make it more difficult to recruit companies to the United States by repealing right-to-work laws. It pits our economy against itself when we should be focused on competing with other world economies.

During my time in the U.S. Senate, I represented a state with right-to-work protections for workers. It is a policy that Arkansan voters chose. Even former Gov. Mike Beebe (D-Ark.) supported right-to-work protections because they gave Arkansas an economic advantage over other states without them. When the national party was pushing legislation similar to the PRO Act called the Employee Free Choice Act, despite my own skepticism and the opposition of my constituents in Arkansas, I paid the price in my last election.

There are 27 states with right-to-work protections for workers. Seven of those states have competitive U.S. Senate elections next year. Eleven right-to-work states are home to Democrats who are on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s target list. In 2023, there will be two gubernatorial races where our party will be defending control of the governor’s mansion in a right-to-work state.

While I agree more needs to be done to protect labor rights, our party should support a balanced, clear and concise approach that is fair to all sides. With labor and management, both sides should have a right to communicate their arguments in regard to unionization with credible and independent oversight.

As James Carville, the political strategist for a famous Arkansan governor and 42nd president, once said: “It’s the economy, stupid.” That phrase rings truer than ever as Democrats seek to buck the historic trend of losing seats during midterm elections. It is a proven blueprint that our party can use.

Our economy faces many challenges. My former colleagues are putting us on a path toward economic revival with the Build Back Better agenda, and I encourage them to consider the unintended economic consequences of any legislation — namely the PRO Act — that threatens cancel out the benefits that their already progressive agenda can deliver.

If anyone should know about the challenges that Democrats face during the upcoming midterm elections, it’s me. Voters will reward our party next November and beyond if America’s economy continues to recover and remains globally competitive under our party’s watch.

I support the rights of workers and unions to organize, but we need to ensure that the laws we pursue will allow our economy to grow. Unfortunately, the PRO Act would hurt America’s global competitiveness, lead to significant job loss and stall our economic comeback. Voters will blame those in charge. By taking a balanced approach that puts workers and small-business owners first, the Democratic Party can lead when it comes to reinvigorating and protecting our workforce, while also driving economic growth that lifts all boats.


Blanche Lincoln, the founder and a principal of the Lincoln Policy Group, is a Democrat who represented Arkansas in the U.S. Senate from 1999 to 2011 and in the House from 1993 to 1997.

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