Rep. Kevin Kiley Fights for Freelancers Against Julie Su Nom in First Workforce Protection Subcomittee Hearing

Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-CA) left, and Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, right

On Wednesday, the House Workforce Protection Subcommittee held its first hearing, dubbed “Examining Biden’s War on Independent Contractors.” Chairman Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-CA) made a strong opening statement bringing up the Biden administration’s union-backed efforts to eliminate a fundamental right – the right to earn a living in the way an individual sees fit.


Today’s hearing is about the Right to Earn a Living: the right to practice your profession and pursue your calling; to be a maker, a builder, a creator; to take your God-given talents, nurture them with heart and soul, and offer them to the world.

In a free society, few rights are more fundamental – or more essential to a dynamic and prosperous economy.

Yet at this moment, that right is in peril. The current Administration has launched a multi-pronged assault on the right to earn a living in America. It is a concerted strategy designed to limit or eliminate the gig economy, freelancing, independent contracting, self-employment – alternate work arrangements that entire careers are based on and entire industries have been built around.

The livelihoods of millions of Americans are at risk. Today, we will examine the devastating consequences of this anti-worker agenda.”

These livelihoods are at risk through the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), which would essentially outlaw independent contracting/freelancing nationwide, and shadowy rulemaking actions at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) with the same purpose. These efforts were thwarted during the Trump administration, but with Biden in the White House, Big Labor’s efforts have been redoubled, as evidenced by the people Biden’s tapped to lead DOL. His first Labor Secretary was former union boss Marty Walsh, and now that Walsh has moved on to lead another union, Biden’s nominated a former labor attorney and darling of organized labor, Julie Su.

Prior to joining the administration as Walsh’s Deputy, Su, as California’s labor secretary, led the state’s implementation of AB-5, the PRO Act’s state-based forerunner, and weaponized it to harass small businesses and independent contractors during the pandemic.


When Su was nominated to be Deputy Secretary of DOL in 2021, I authored a guest piece for RedState about that implementation and what could be expected should she go national.

‘From State Shakedowns to Federal Syndicate’, California’s Extortion Racket Goes National

Through the PRO Act, DOL rulemaking, and installing those who will do their bidding atop federal government agencies, the establishment Democratic Party, in lockstep with the Big Labor lobby hopes to force tens of millions of Americans out of freelancing and independent contracting and into “employee” status, which would allow the unions to focus on organizing new sectors in the face of dwindling membership. Rep. Kiley has fought against these efforts every step of the way, first in the California State Assembly and now in Congress, and called the hearing to highlight just how destructive the Biden/Su agenda will be to all Americans, and not just Californians, and has called Su “the architect and lead enforcer of AB-5.”

Rep. Kiley cited projections that 3.2 to 3.8 million Americans would lose full or part-time jobs, about half of the jobs lost during the Great Depression. It was noted several times in the hearing how concerning this was, amid the anticipation of a recession in the coming months.


Dr. Liya Palagashvili, a Senior Research Fellow at Mercatus Center at George Mason University, testified before the committee that other projections based on a simulation of the criteria taking hold nationally would lead to 57 percent to 87 percent loss of independent contracting earning opportunities, by neither becoming employees nor retaining their freelance or independent work. Several witnesses testified that the law’s impacts would disproportionately affect women.

Rep. Kiley noted the fraud of pandemic economic relief programs overseen by Su, including sending checks to incarcerated individuals, saying:

It’s hard to find a state official with a greater record of mismanagement.

Ranking Member Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) rebutted the subject matter of the hearing, using familiar counter-arguments often cited by the proponents of policies such as access to worker benefits, and that worker misclassification leads to tax revenue loss for the government.

Rep. Adams, Rep. Takano (D-CA), and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) all made partisan attacks against Republicans on the subcommittee. Rep. Takano said the committee did not have jurisdiction over state laws and didn’t believe that AB-5 (which heavily impacts his own constituents) should be mentioned at all, and condemned the timing of the hearing, saying:

Committee Republicans are wrong about the Biden Administration’s rule, wrong about Julie Su; they are smearing her in this committee.

Rep. Omar echoed the dissatisfaction, criticizing Republican colleagues on the subject of worker misclassification:

It is a shame that our Republican colleagues aren’t taking it seriously.


Rep. Omar then asked Laura Padin, Director of Work Structures at the National Employment Project, about the benefits of Union membership, an objective of AB-5.

While the progressive lawmakers gave the usual Big Labor talking points and seemed annoyed that they had been called into a hearing with critical implications for tens of millions of American workers, they were overshadowed by the unsung heroes who shared personal stories of the stark realities of such policies, and the representatives fighting against the government overreach.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) aimed her fire at DOL’s regulatory actions and maneuvers such as how they prevented the Trump administration’s final rule for independent contractors from taking effect and may have sidestepped other processes. Two grassroots advocates for freelancers’ rights to economic pursuit testified before the committee: Karen Anderson of California, Founder of Freelancers Against AB-5, and Kim Kavin of New Jersey, Co-founder of Fight for Freelancers USA.

Rep. Kiley emphasized that there was no need to sit and hypothesize about how the PRO Act would harm Americans:

Those consequences are not a matter of speculation. They are already an established reality – a bitter, unfair, unnecessary reality – for many residents of my own state. You see, in California, the war on independent workers has been underway for years.


Anderson shared the personal stories of many people who had their careers destroyed in California under the iron fist of Su’s retroactive AB-5 enforcement. Anderson spoke of a bread-winning wife and mother forced to flee to another state, with her developmentally delayed child and husband with stage 4 cancer, as her bookkeeping business was stifled by the regulations. (You can find all the stories that Anderson has worked to compile of Californians reeling from AB 5 here.)

Sharing the experiences of independent contractors speaking out to lawmakers, Kim Kavin testified,

They have laughed in my face, ignored us by the dozens in public hearings, and refused to give us a seat at the table while writing regulations about us.

Kavin revealed that lawmakers had even directed her to address the issue with the AFL-CIO, in lieu of her elected representatives. Kavin began to describe the human experience of freelance workers coming to terms with the realities of these reclassification policies on their incomes, lifestyles, and families as going through the stages of grief, from disbelief to shock, and betrayal.

After the hearing, Kavin expressed that the previous experiences of disregard and mistreatment from lawmakers she had testified to were on display in Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing as well, telling RedState:

It was particularly disappointing that I tried in good faith to engage directly with Rep. Adams, the ranking member for the Democrats, and she chose not to speak a single word to me. This is exactly what I meant when I testified about how the people trying to hurt us continue to ignore us.

For the many independent contractors who have been steamrolled and ignored on an issue that directly impacts every aspect of their lives, the humanization of their fight and plight was an empowering site to see in our Congress.


Anderson reflected on the long journey from opposing the law in California to testifying in Congress, and her appreciation for Rep. Kiley as a continued champion of this cause, telling RedState:

It was an honor to be asked to testify about AB-5 before the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. From the very beginning when he was in the California Assembly, Kevin Kiley was in the trenches with our freelancer movement trying to get this destructive law repealed. It was surreal to join forces with him at Capitol Hill to bring national attention to our issue.

And, there have been notable wins that American working-class people have fought for and celebrated along the way:

  • The passage of the PRO Act was prevented in both 2020 and 2021 when it died in the Senate, while it passed the House in both sessions.
  • Californians voted against the AB 5 law as written, opposing implementations upon several app-based companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and others. The referendum, Prop 22 passed decisively in November 2020.
  • Several state legislatures declined to adopt similar legislation.
  • This year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that former CA legislator Lorena Gonzalez’s passage of AB 5 was riddled with “corruption, pure spite, and naked favoritism.”
  • The constitutionality has been called into question by federal courts under the 14th Amendment equal protection clause, as the law in California was so bad they had to arbitrarily write over 100 industry exemptions. Anderson noted in the hearing that neither the DOL rule nor the PRO Act carry such exemption clauses, which would lead to more severe impacts nationally.
  • House Republicans created the Workforce Protection Subcommittee and held their first hearing giving voice to the issue.

Thursday, tens of millions of Americans will watch as the Senate starts the process of deciding the fate of their finances, hoping it is Su that gets stifled this time, not their livelihoods.

Looking ahead, Kavin tells RedState: “I think it was long overdue for actual independent contractors to have a voice in lawmaking about independent contractors. Hopefully, today’s hearing showed the whole country what we’re up against, and why we will continue the fight for freelancers.”


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