I’ve run my own business as a solopreneur copywriter, speaker and consultant for over 15 years. Now the PRO Act, a bill pushed by Big Labor to forcibly reclassify most freelancers and independent contractors as employees, is threatening me and over 50 million other Americans who choose to be self-employed. That’s about one out of every three American workers.
The PRO Act recently passed in the House of Representatives and is under consideration in the Senate. Like California’s AB5, the PRO Act uses a three-pronged test to determine if a worker is an independent contractor or employee. It’s a test that seems designed for most freelancers to fail. This has been devastating for the self-employed in California, throwing hundreds of thousands out of work during a pandemic—many of them women like me, who are caregivers and must have the flexibility of freelance work in order to care for our loved ones.
If you’re a W2 employee, you may not think this is a big deal. That’s because you may not even realize how many services you receive from highly skilled and specialized independent contractors. Need anesthesia or nursing care or physical therapy or a massage, a breathing treatment or dental care? Huge numbers of healthcare workers are self-employed, working under contract for several different facilities, all of which would have to classify them as employees under the PRO Act. In California, AB5 caused a shortage of anesthesiologists, making surgery even more dangerous during a pandemic.
Hundreds of professions were caught up in the ABC Test dragnet in California. Journalism and the arts were devastated. Self-employed fine artists, photographers, writers, producers, musicians and singers were suddenly out of work. AB5 was so financially and logistically devastating that a number of California arts organizations and publications simply shut down permanently or moved out of state.
Want to buy or sell your house? Nearly all Realtors, real estate appraisers, house cleaners, stagers, and home inspectors are independent contractors who do not want to be classified as employees or work on a set schedule. Want to do some home improvements? The architect, draftsperson, plumber, house painter, interior designer, carpenters, flooring and carpet installers, lighting designer, forester, landscape architect, and landscape laborers are likely self-employed contractors.
Do you like to eat food? The ABC Test puts a huge burden on family farms that hire contract farm workers to pick produce. Self-employed agronomists, pest control advisors, and irrigation contractors were also affected in California. And don’t forget the small and hobby farmers and food producers who supply honey, eggs, specialty produce and baked goods at your Farmer’s Market. Most would also fail the ABC Test. And the trucker who transports most American produce and meat to your local grocery store is likely to be an independent contractor who owns and drives his own rig.
Do buy goods or services from small businesses? They hire self-employed accountants, bookkeepers, business consultants, executive recruiters and HR consultants, professional trainers, graphic designers, web developers, translators, marketing consultants and copywriters like me.
Pre-pandemic, did you attend conferences, trade shows, conventions, or seminars? The public speakers and trainers and event planners were almost certainly self-employed, like me.
Getting married? You’re likely writing checks in the name of your wedding planner, florist, photographer, designer, hairdresser, makeup artist, caterer, wedding cake designer, dress designer, chauffeur, and even the officiant as self-employed independent contractors.
AB5’s sponsors justified it as a “fix” for gig-based companies like Uber, claiming that its drivers were misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees. Millions of other self-employed workers were devastated by this supposedly narrow attack on a segment of the gig economy.
Biden campaigned on passing this re-tread of California’s deeply flawed Assembly Bill 5, so he is sure to sign it if it passes out of the Senate. And that could be the biggest mistake of his term.