Last Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 53-47 against the nomination of David Weil to lead the Wage and Hour Division at the Labor Department.
Democratic Senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and Mark Kelly joined all Republicans to deliver a blow to this controversial nominee—a vehement opponent of worker freedom.
Weil drew ire from small business owners, freelancers, and franchise owners for his record in the same role he held in the Obama administration from 2014-2017. He was previously tasked with enforcing federal minimum-wage, overtime, and family-leave laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Had Weil been approved, his positions would have stood in contrast with labor trends in favor of flexible work arrangements.
Among his most troubling positions was his support of an ABC test, similar to that of California’s AB5, to determine a worker’s status. That law led to millions of independent contractors being reclassified and losing income, contracts, and employment opportunities. In 2015, he published an Administrator’s Interpretation (AI) falsely claiming most workers are deliberately misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees, arguing “most workers are employees under the FLSA’s broad definitions.”
American Action Forum (AAF) analyzed the impact of federal worker reclassification and found 13 million workers producing “over $1.6 trillion in economic output, about 8.5 percent of gross domestic product” would potentially be displaced from the workforce.
As I noted here, most gig workers now self-identify as independent contractors and not employees.
According to DOL’s own numbers, 500,000 workers became solopreneurs since the start of the pandemic. There are now 9.44 million unincorporated self-employed workers. That’s a six percent increase in the workforce, making it the highest recorded number of independent workers since the Great Recession of 2008.
According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers, union workforce participation dropped 0.5% from 10.8% in 2020 to 10.3% (14 million workers) in 2021. In contrast, freelancers comprise 36% of the workforce with 59 million workers generating $1.3 trillion of economic output. By 2023, it’s estimated 50% of the workforce will comprise freelancers.
David Weil’s return to the Department of Labor would have undermined the labor force trends of millions of workers opting for flexible arrangements over traditional 9-to-5 jobs. The Senate was wise to deny him the authority to seize control over their workers’ employment choices and freedom.