Joe Biden and Kamala Harris claim to stand for women and American workers. As part of that effort, they advocate for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (the PRO Act), which would do to the entire country what the infamous AB5 law did in California. Harris already co-sponsored the legislation in the U.S. Senate, and Biden says he “strongly supports” it. However, is this law actually good for women and American workers?
False. Completely make believe.
If the PRO Act became law, it would undoubtedly leave millions of the nation’s 57 million freelancers unemployed, perhaps indefinitely. By changing the way businesses are allowed to classify independent workers, the PRO Act would force more employers to offer benefits such as employment protections, health care and more. While this might sound good in theory, many businesses can’t afford to pay for these benefits. As a result, many will instead choose not to hire freelance workers at all—sending those workers straight to the unemployment line. Once there, they’ll be faced with an all-or-nothing choice about whether to be a full-time worker or not to work at all.
Already, this is happening in California. On January 1, 2020, AB5 imposed the most significant restrictions on independent contractors in recent history, which the PRO Act would mirror. Thousands of workers have lots jobs and vital incomes, including some 200 freelance writers at Vox Media. AB5 has been so devastating for the state, it’s even left Santa Claus out in the cold.
The PRO Act would use the same three-pronged ABC test as AB5 to decide who is allowed to work as a freelancer nationwide. As part of that test, the B-prong says to be considered a contractor, a worker must perform work that is outside of the usual course of business for the hiring company.
For someone like Monica Wyman who runs a small floral business in California, that means she can’t hire freelancers to help arrange and install flower arrangements because their labor falls directly inside of her “usual course of business.” Because weddings are sporadic and seasonal, Wyman doesn’t have enough work to hire independent contractors as employees with benefits, as AB5 requires. As a result, the freelancers Wyman used to employ are now out of work—and Wyman doesn’t have enough help to sustain her business. Already, she’s facing the prospect of shutting down.
If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris sign the PRO Act into law, these realities would multiply.
More and more Americans now work as freelancers, independent contractors, and gig workers, rather than solely as employees of one company or organization. The workplace and workforce are changing rapidly, as workers demand more flexibility and freedom.
These arrangements allow workers to have greater control of their schedules and work. They get to decide when, with whom, and how much they work. They have the freedom to develop a relationship with more than one company, which can provide additional sources of income and security.
Of course, independent contract, freelance, and gig workers give up some upsides of being full-time employees: They don’t receive traditional benefits, like paid time off or access to an employers’ health insurance. But many people think this trade off is worth it. Parents who want the flexibility to schedule work time around their family lives, for example, often prefer work as an independent contractor to a typical 9-to-5 employee relationship. It’s no surprise that nearly half of independent contractors are women—many, working moms.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris claim to be champions for women and American workers, but this policy would eliminate flexible employment opportunities, forcing working moms to choose between traditional 9-5 jobs, or no work at all. It has already killed thousands of jobs in California’s gig economy, and would take away millions more if implemented nationwide. It is an attack on women, American workers, and the American dream.