The state of Minnesota has formed a task force to study worker misclassification—with policy recommendations due by the end of this year. Should Minnesota follow California’s lead and establish a strict ABC worker-classification test, the predictable result would be chaos and calamity, such as what is occurring in California thanks to the infamous anti-independent contractor law, AB5 (Assembly Bill 5).
Minnesota’s first task force hearing took place on November 20, 2023, at the St. Paul headquarters of Laborers’ International Union of North America. Members of “Fight For Freelancers Minnesota,” an all-volunteer group of independent contractors, put the state on notice: They don’t want to experience in Minnesota what has happened in California, where the ABC test law has wrought destruction and disruption upon hundreds of thousands of legitimate independent contractors, entrepreneurs, licensed professionals, and all manner of small-business owners, nonprofits, trades, and solopreneurs.
Even before AB5 went into effect in January 2020, desperate stories of lost livelihoods came pouring into the public Facebook group “Freelancers Against AB5” from across myriad political affiliations, incomes, and demographics. The group has identified over 600 categories of professions negatively affected by AB5. Hundreds of horror stories are archived on the page.
Sponsored by unions and authored by a single assemblywoman in the state legislature, AB5 represents a scorched-earth approach to policymaking that has led to a “sausage-making-after-the-fact” scenario in which there was division, favoritism, and backroom dealing. The result is chaos, confusion, and a steady stream of shuttered careers and costly litigation. Those with the loudest voices or with enough money to hire a lobbyist were given first consideration for coveted exemptions from the law, while hundreds of categories of professions are still left out in the cold, many having fallen through the cracks. One such casualty is the freelance transcription profession, which is all but extinct in California due to AB5—with seniors and women dominating that field.
It is not speculation in California the damage that the ABC test can inflict on so many. Minnesota must heed the cautionary tale from California’s one-size-fits-all law that ensnares everyone in its trap and actually misclassifies legitimate, thriving independent contractors while putting countless hardworking professionals out of business. In California, the destruction is real, not theoretical, and California freelancers are the canaries in the coal mine.