IN MY ORBIT: Press Conference with Independent Women's Voice to Oppose the PRO Act

(Martin Clarke/Michelle Janikian via AP)

It has been a little over a year since I started my fight against California’s AB5: the so-called “Gig Workers” law that was supposed to right the wrongs of misclassification of 1099 Independent Contractors who should have been employees.

Authored by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena S. Gonzalez-Fletcher (D-Chula Vista), and backed by powerful unions such as the AFL-CIO, what this law did was remove a person’s right to choose to work as an Independent Contractor, freelancer, or gig worker in the state.

My life as a freelance writer, reinvention coach, and Yoga instructor was upended, as were the lives and livelihoods of millions of other independent professionals, from translators and interpreters, to musicians and the theater community. Even after all this time, a new crop of professionals are discovering that they too fall under the heavy boot of this poorly crafted law.

Several lawsuits, and political advocacy done by myself and so many others (including my colleagues Jennifer Van Laar and Kira Davis), forced exemptions to AB5 for freelance writers and a few other professionals, but the law still exists and its fallout has been detrimental: Millions of professionals have been put out work, and thousands have had to uproot from California to other states, in order to pursue their professions and earn a living without penalty.

Elections have consequences, and with the new Biden administration comes fresh challenges to our freedoms to work as we please. Now, independent professionals and freelancers have to fight against H.R. 842, the “Protecting the Right to Organize Act”. Known in shorthand as the PRO Act, it is simply California’s AB5 on steroids, and if signed into law, there will be no place to move within the United States where an independent professional would be able to earn a living.

A Guest Editorialist on our pages laid it out succinctly:

Biden and the Democrats believe that their long-term future depends upon eliminating independent contractors and increasing workforce unionization, which is why they are wholly committed to making the ABC Test the law of the land. Biden will have several options available to him for accomplishing this goal if he becomes president, and there would be very little in the way to stop him.

The first way that Biden and the Democrats could impose the ABC Test would be to enact H.R. 2474, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (PRO Act). This legislation would make the ABC test permanent under federal labor law and immune to almost any legal challenge. The PRO Act has already passed the House, and it has been strongly endorsed by Biden and almost all of the Democrats in Congress. Should the Democrats recapture the Senate and eliminate or curtail the use of the legislative filibuster as they have discussed, this legislation will be on Biden’s desk in very short order.

The 2020 version of this bill is before the House today, and contains the dreaded ABC Test. As we know about this Congress, they are determined to do as much damage as possible, ramming the bill through without discussion, and to call for a vote as quickly as possible.

Yesterday, I participated in a press conference organized by Independent Women’s Voice (IWV), an arm of the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), along with a fellow independent professional Monica Wyman, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), and Patrice Onwuka, Independent Women’s Forum Director of the Economic Opportunity Center.

I was interviewed last year by IWF for a series called “Chasing Work”. The series delved into the damage done by AB5, and told my, and others, individual stories about how the law affected our ability to pursue our professions and earn a living. I was honored to be asked again to continue my advocacy in opposition to the looming PRO Act.

Here is part of what I said,

“Like AB5, the PRO Act employs the ABC Test to determine whether you have the right to be in independent contractor, and most independent professionals cannot pass the “B”-part: This part says that your work cannot be the same as the business with whom you are contracting. I am a Conservative writer and activist, so this restricts working with these types of outlets. I teach Yoga and create programs used by instructors and studios. The B-part prevents work with other Yoga professionals, and I cannot work with non-profit organizations to help impoverished and marginalized women. My mother grew up in the Jim Crow South with its laws and restrictions for Black Americans. Jim Crow’s intent was to remove Black people’s political and economic empowerment. How is AB5 or the PRO Act any different than Jim Crow laws for Independent Professionals, the majority of whom are women and minorities?”

There is no difference. Seeking to rob an entire sector of the population of their ability to earn a living as they choose is creating a caste system in order to marginalize and destroy individual freedom and opportunity.

Thankfully, just as in the battle against AB5, we are not alone in this one. The Biden administration and Congress’s haste to institute this Act as written has garnered the attention of freelancers across the country, and they are pushing back.

President Biden acts as though he is schizophrenic: He has claimed that he wants to modify the Paycheck Protection Program to recognize one-person shops as small businesses. That would be someone like me, and millions of other independent professionals across the nation. Biden has also signed an executive order for a Gender Policy Council to “advance gender equity and equality.” He is doing these things on the one hand, while on the other hand giving full-throated support to the PRO Act, which will essentially undo both of those initiatives.

Carrie Lukas, the President of Independent Women’s Forum, said in response to AB5’s exemptions:

“I think the sign of a bad law is when everyone is jockeying to get out from under it.”

The PRO Act will not allow any such exemptions or room to adjust, but will immediately wipe out the careers of over 57 million independent professionals, freelancers, and self-employed, along with doing away with any right-to-work laws in 27 states.

I strongly urge you to petition your Congress person to vote against this madness. We did our best to warn people that AB5 would be coming their way in the form of the PRO Act. Now, the wolf is at the door.

The full Independent Women’s Voice press conference is below. It is less than an hour, feel free to give it a

LISTEN: