Over 64 million Americans – including over 500,000 Virginians – now engage in some semblance of independent contracting. But the reintroduction of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act in Congress will jeopardize this burgeoning workforce if it passes.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, a ranking member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Big Labor advocate and key sponsor of the bill, claims the PRO Act is a “critical step” to empower workers who’ve been deprived of essential rights. But the congressman couldn’t be more wrong about empowering workers.

As with previous attempts, this iteration of the PRO Act – renamed in honor of the late AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka – would set workers back by repealing right-to-work laws and policies that have encouraged flexible work arrangements and contributed to our commonwealth’s robust business climate.

In a publicly available fact sheet, Rep. Scott and other members argue that this bill, if passed, would give workers the ability to nullify “right-to-work” laws. By repealing this provision, the bill would mandate making membership conditional for employment. That would imperil 3.1 million nonunionized Virginia workers who voluntarily choose to not belong to unions.

In 2021, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, a state agency promoting and attracting business to the commonwealth, cautioned lawmakers against repealing this long-standing law. Should a repeal go into effect, Virginia would potentially lose out on 260 prospective manufacturing and supply-chain projects estimated to create 33,000 jobs and deliver $16.7 billion in capital investment. Moreover, the VEDP warned that the commonwealth would have lost “approximately [$8 million to $26 million] in state general fund revenue per year.”

Since 1947, Virginia law has given workers latitude to join or not join a union. That freedom to choose should remain in effect. Why? As the Journal of Law and Economics observes, right-to-work laws enable workers – unionized and nonunionized – to enjoy higher life satisfaction and economic sentiment. Competition – not coercion – is good for all workers.

By nullifying right-to-work, the majority of Virginia’s independent workforce potentially will be forced back into employee status in the name of fighting misclassification. Virginia workers – including female independent contractors – increasingly seek out freelance work to be more fulfilled in their careers and to balance family-work life.

Since becoming a full-time freelancer in 2016, I’ve maintained clients across the outdoor industry and politics. This lifestyle has enabled me to travel across the country and become an award-winning writer, fellow at reputable nonprofit organizations and sought-after news commentator.

This flawed experiment has already been tried in California with poor results under Assembly Bill 5 – a law that imposed a restrictive test that requires independent workers to go to unreasonable lengths to prove they aren’t W-2 employees. AB5 led to lost contract work, countless livelihoods crushed and displacement from the workforce, especially for women and older professionals.

Exporting this California policy nationally, including in Virginia, will have devastating effects. Labor activists claim fighting misclassification will recoup $28 million in “lost revenue” for the commonwealth – but the cost of forced reclassification is more ruinous. If 50% of independent workers were converted back into employee status, it would cost $1.28 billion.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, even opposed the PRO Act during the 117th Congress, citing concerns with forced reclassification. “My fear is that parts of the PRO Act tries to fit all work into kind of a 20th-century classic W-2 employment status,” he said.

Forced reclassification isn’t the answer, nor a solution. Enforcing existing labor law addresses instances of actual worker misclassification.

The PRO Act would ultimately give unions total power over workers and grant them unfettered access to private, sensitive data.

Under the guise of transparency, the PRO Act would mandate employers to partake in “notice-posting” and codify the National Labor Relations Board’s 2014 Election Rule that gives them access to workers names, addresses, job locations, phone numbers and email addresses in a searchable electronic format. Unions having unfettered access to information like this would be a major privacy violation and lead to worker intimidation for refusal to comply. It’s unacceptable for labor unions to meddle in affairs like this.

Ultimately, the PRO Act would do more harm than good for Virginia’s vibrant independent workforce – which comprises over 557,000 individuals. Independent contractors like me don’t need rescuing from labor unions. We are our own best negotiators – and advocates.