There is a War on Work happening in our country. Local, state, and national lawmakers are crafting legislation to restrict your freedom on the type of professional, vocational, or gig work in which you choose to engage. All this, in the middle of a global pandemic.
In fact, the legislative maneuvers over future COVID stimulus funds have much to do with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi inserting poison pills aimed at independent professionals and small business under the guise of worker “helps”. It is a concerted effort to destroy your economic and vocational freedom and opportunity, and to kill the entrepreneurial and independent spirit on which America was founded.
If this struggle is lost, it will ultimately affect the way you work, who you work for, and if you are a small business and/or entrepreneur, independent contractor, freelancer, whether you will even be able to exist.
On October 20, I was very honored to be a panelist for the Institute for the American Worker (IAW) and the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) webinar on the “War on Women: How Restricting Independent Contracting Hurts Women and Their Families”. It is a meaty discussion hosted by Patrice Onwuka, policy director for IWF, and Jennifer Butler, Executive Vice President of IAW.
As a woman who has been personally damaged by AB5, the so-called gig workers law, I shared my story about the attack on my creative freedom and the ability to build my now 30-year old business to a larger degree. I still live in California, and along with my freelance writing, I am a reinvention coach, and a highly certified yoga instructor.
Also featured is Shelby Givan, an online teacher and tutor, and a mom who had to move to Idaho in order to make time in her life for both profession and parenthood.
The webinar is about 50 minutes and you can access it at the conclusion of this article. We discuss this War on Work, and how it deeply impacts women. Both Patrice Onwuka and Jennifer Butler bring their policy experience and detail how catastrophic this type of federal policy would be on America’s workforce and what can be done to encourage workforce innovation to bolster our economy.
For those unfamiliar with AB5, the national press has chosen to craft this damaging legislation as all about Uber and Lyft, That could not be further from the truth.
AB5 has adversely impacted over 300 professions and negatively affected 2 million freelancers, independent contractors, gig workers, and app-based service workers. Those affected have shared their AB5 Stories across multiple platforms, and I have written extensively about the law and its effect on essential professions, as well as women and minorities through another platform (see my website). I have also done personal interviews, videos, and forums about its impact on individual liberty, lives, and the California economy.
Upwork, one of the largest remote work platforms in the world, did a 2019 annual survey on freelancers and freelance work. They found several key metrics:
- 57 million Americans freelanced in 2019, representing 35 percent of the workforce.
- The share of full-time freelancers increased from 17 percent in 2014, to 28 percent in 2019.
- The most common type of freelance work is “skilled service” with 45 percent of freelancers providing specialized services.
- 60 percent of freelancers said they started freelancing by choice.
This number is expected to increase dramatically. During this global pandemic, many professionals have moved to freelance or contract work in order to survive.
Joe Mullings, a chairman and CEO of the Mullings group says it
“was already trending in this direction before the pandemic, with ‘33 percent of workers engaged in contracts with predetermined endings last year,’ He predicts that this number will increase at an accelerated rate.”
According to another recent study by Edelman Intelligence, by 2027, they predict freelancers will account for the majority of the American workforce.
Patrice Onwuka of IWF says that 75 percent of freelancers prefer working as independent contractors to a full-time job, and even more say there are more pressing matters affecting freelancers than the ones addressed by AB5.
So, like me, most independent contractors are doing what they desire and what they love. Many of us are highly trained and certified, we know how to advocate for ourselves concerning rates of pay and safe working conditions, and we enjoy the freedom and flexibility that independent contracting offers. So, instead of protecting our rights, these targeted “misclassification” laws like AB5 take away our choice and destroy our livelihoods; livelihoods that have taken decades to develop and build.
Tragically, California’s failure is not being used as a cautionary tale, but as a blueprint for legislation that will have national significance. Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are doubling down on their attacks on freelancing and entrepreneurship by incorporating AB5’s A-B-C test into two bills: The PRO Act (“Protecting the Right to Organize Act”), which was passed in the House of Representatives on February 6, and is waiting to be heard on the Senate floor; and the Worker Flexibility and Small Business Act (S.4378), which was introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in September.
As the Institute for the American Worker says, the “PRO Act would weaken worker freedom and protections, increase regulation of businesses, and strengthen collective bargaining to increase the union share of the workforce.”
The PRO Act is essentially AB5 on steroids, and would not offer any work-arounds or exemptions to the law.
Senate Bill 4378, the so-called Worker Flexibility and Small Business Protection Act, is anything but. This Act will force individuals into employment roles that create opportunities for union organizing, and will destroy any right to work laws that exist in other states. The IAW further writes, “under the Worker Flexibility and Small Business Protection Act, independent contractors would become ’employees’ within a company’s wage and benefits structure and thus become new targets for union organizing.”
So, as you can see, there is much at stake, especially in the election 5 days from now:
Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris have made it crystal clear that they support both AB5 and the PRO Act, and want to see its policies go national. President Donald Trump has already said that if the Senate passes the PRO Act, he will veto it, and any legislation that seeks to destroy entrepreneurship and small business.
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is one of the sponsors of SB.4378 (The Worker Flexibility and Small Business Protection Act) and wants to be the one who handles the Department of Labor purse strings as the House Appropriations Chair. She is in a tight race with Republican Margaret Streicker for her Congressional seat.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Patty Murray of Washington are not up for re-election, but letters, phone calls, and negative pressure do wonders to turn around the wrong thinking of politicians. The Republicans maintaining their majority in the Senate will also help to kill off this wrong-headed legislation.
The future of the country as founded, and the future of your ability to work as you choose is at stake. What will you do to protect both?