Workers who receive most or all of their income working as independent contractors (“gig” workers) have really taken it on the chin this year from Democrats and their allies. California’s AB5 is an excellent example of it, and we know that House Democrats want to do the same thing at the federal level.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, workers in the gig economy took an even harder hit as they weren’t able to get hired by clients and weren’t able to really qualify for unemployment benefits because of their mixed-income status. The music industry is one such industry that would be crippled if this workforce were depleted, because you’re talking about folks who work events, are backups in recording sessions, or collaborate in the industry in some other meaningful way.
So, back in May, lobbyists from the industry wrote to Congressional leaders asking for assistance.
— The music industry, meanwhile, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer this morning outlining a number of asks, including changes to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Many musicians and others in the industry “work from project to project and gig to gig, not only in multiple jobs but in various capacities,” receiving a combination of wages and income as independent contractors, the Recording Industry Association of America, the National Independent Venue Association and dozens of other companies and trade groups write in the letter.
— The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program “has overlooked workers with mixed income,” they write. “In almost all cases that we see in every state, a minimum amount of W-2 income disqualifies a self-employed individual for PUA and significantly lowers the amount of assistance they receive. PUA must be updated to recognize these different income streams and allow individuals to show their mixed sources of revenue for a full accounting of their annual income.”
Behind the scenes here, it appears that Republicans such as Marsha Blackburn are pushing for federal assistance for these workers, and it’s not really difficult to understand why. As a Senator from Tennessee, Blackburn’s constituency includes the heart of the country music industry, and that is a not-insignificant economic player in her state. What’s more, it’s a big favorite of a large swath of the Republican Party’s constituency.
It also goes back to California’s attacks on gig economy workers, forcing companies to officially hire or cut loose those workers. Federal relief would allow those who have fallen victim to this union-backed scheme to survive while they try to look for employment in their field, or find some way out of that state.
The Politico piece above, though, was written in May. The push is not dead, however, with Blackburn and others fighting to keep it alive. It would be great for Republicans to fight for the workers in ways the Democrats only talk about but rarely do, because the Democrats aren’t really for workers but that union money instead. Mitch McConnell would be very wise to pick this issue up and be very vocal about it, calling on Democrats to put their money where their mouths are and help not just workers in the music industry, but mixed-income workers across the country.
Kudos to Blackburn for keeping the fight alive, and here’s hoping that more can be done. And soon, too.