On Tuesday, the House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The PRO Act is similar to Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), a law that began destroying work opportunities for Californians in January 2020. AB5 was passed in the name of protecting “workers’ rights” by placing stringent limitations on independent contractors. 

Even after the disastrous results of AB5 in California, the Biden administration and liberals in Congress have been pushing for the PRO Act to become federal law. Next, the bill moves to the Senate for consideration. 

What did AB5 do?

AB5 imposed a stringent ABC test which made it virtually impossible for independent contractors to continue their work. It placed limitations on independent journalists and photographers and created difficult situations for contractors who would collaborate on projects but were clearly not each other’s employees. 

Companies that had previously worked with a number of contractors hired only a small number of full-time employees to replace these contractors and independent contractors throughout the state found that their income was either reduced or completely gone overnight. 

Small businesses, too, were hit with a one-two punch of AB5 and the coronavirus pandemic: many small businesses can’t afford to hire traditional employees since they operate with a small budget so they hire independent contractors. AB5 forced many of these businesses to simply let go of their independent contractors. Pandemic lockdowns made matters worse, forcing some of them to close their doors.

Proponents of the law argued that this would help workers by making them employees of the companies they worked for and thus receive benefits such as paid time off, sick leave, etc. 

What proponents of AB5 failed to take into account is that many individuals become independent contractors by choice. They value the freedom and flexibility offered by contract work; while they may not get paid time off or other such benefits, those benefits are more than outweighed by the ability to choose when, where, and how they work. In fact, many contractors say that they make more money as contractors than they would as traditional employees. And they enjoy the ability to balance their work with other responsibilities in their lives such as caring for an elderly family member or children. 

The stories of workers harmed by AB5

Independent Women’s Forum reached out to many of these Californians who were impacted by the misguided AB5 bill. Karen Anderson, an independent contractor since the mid-90s, said: “These politicians can say what they want about misclassifying…but the result is that lives are being destroyed, tangibly.” 

JoBeth McDaniel, who has enjoyed the perks of working as a freelance journalist since the 1980s, voiced the sentiment shared by many of the individuals that we spoke with: “AB5 pretends that the state knows better than we do in making those decisions.” These individuals aren’t being taken advantage of by predatory companies, and they simply want the freedom to continue to choose how they want to work. 

Soon after the implementation of AB5, Californian legislators were inundated with requests for exemptions from AB5 as different professions sought to be released from the “protections” they had never asked for in the first place. Those with the loudest voices did receive carve outs, but many professions continue to be affected by the limitations imposed upon them by AB5. This has led to some individuals simply leaving California in order to continue their work as independent contractors free from government restrictions. Other individuals like Kevin Barnard, despite being exempt from AB5, still find themselves out of work because clients don’t understand the law and don’t want to take any risks. 

The PRO Act will limit opportunities for all freelancers 

Despite watching Californian lawmakers carve out exemption after exemption in the AB5 bill, the PRO Act would exempt no professions from its disastrous effects and would be a boon for unions – boosting their numbers and allowing them the personal information of individuals who did not want to join a union. 

This is all despite the fact that there is not widespread evidence of misclassification of workers.There are already ways for workers to correct misclassifications, through challenges filed with state and federal agencies. 

If anything, the pandemic has shown Americans how important flexible work can be. Many Americans don’t want to be forced into a traditional 9-to-5 arrangement and the government should not force people towards these old models that no longer work for so many people. 

The PRO Act would destroy job opportunities for millions of Americans throughout the country. Instead of limiting opportunities, lawmakers should expand worker freedom and allow Americans to choose the life and work opportunities that they desire.

If you want to stop the government from destroying job opportunities and freedom, please sign IWF’s petition and join the fight for independent contractor flexibility and freedom.