The ABC Test for employment status isn’t pro-worker. It’s anti-independent contractor.

When the PRO Act (S1306/HR2474) was introduced in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives in May 2019, supporters said the labor-union-backed bills were “landmark legislation to protect workers’ rights to organize.” Later that year, the legislation changed to contain some of the same language as the disastrous California AB5, which went into effect January 1, 2020. This ABC Test language has damaged thousands of careers in California, requiring more than 100 exemptions to be added to the law within its first year to try and stop the economic fallout.

In September 2019, lawmakers sought to expand the federal use of this ABC Test language by introducing what they again called “a landmark bill that will expand labor laws to protect workers,” the labor-union-backed Worker Flexibility and Small Business Protection Act.

The ABC Test is a relic of the 1930s. It is regressive, not progressive. It is 20th-century thinking being applied to the 21st-century workforce.

Why these bills now? They’re seen as life support for declining unions

Supporters of the PRO Act and the Worker Flexibility and Small Business Protection Act say the legislation is about protecting workers from being misclassified and exploited as independent contractors.

Fight for Freelancers USA supports legislation that protects workers, but we are against any federal legislation that codifies the ABC Test into nationwide law. Study after study shows that the vast majority of independent contractors are not misclassified, are not exploited and do not want to be forced into employee status.

Whom does this legislation benefit?

Unions, which are faced with plummeting membership numbers. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers tell the story:

• Union membership was down to 10.3% in 2019 from about 20% in 1983
• The number of workers belonging to unions declined by about 150,000 members to 14.6 million
• More than half of union members live in just seven states. Five of those states are targets for ABC test-based statewide legislation: California, New York, New Jersey, Washington, and Illinois.

How can a union get more members? By making it illegal for independent contractor work to exist. By law, it is illegal to unionize an independent contractor. Anyone doing work must be classified as an employee in order to be eligible for union membership.

One New Jersey state senator explained it this way:

“Our job, as labor, is always to try to organize. If you’re not organizing, you’re not growing. … So if you’re an enterprising labor organization, and you see that there’s a whole bunch of Lyft or Uber drivers or graphic designers for instance, and you want to be that QBP [qualified benefit provider], you’re essentially a half a step away from unionizing those groups.”

In other words, change employment-status tests to force independent contractors to become employees, whether they want to be employees or not. More employees mean more chances to make them union members.

The AFL-CIO, in particular, is pushing these ABC Test laws nationwide.

Before the February 2020 vote on the PRO Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told Democrats that he would withhold campaign contributions and support from any lawmaker who opposed the PRO Act bill.

Do not ask the labor movement for a dollar or a door knock. We won’t be coming.

Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president, in a tweet he later deleted

When the Worker Flexibility and Small Business Protection Act was introduced, Trumka was quoted in the sponsors’ press release along with Mary Kay Henry, president of the SEIU union.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the PRO Act “a litany of almost every failed idea from the past 30 years of labor policy.” Study after study shows that the majority of independent contractors want to remain independent contractors.

75 percent of independent contractors say they prefer freelancing over a full-time job

2019 Contently survey

We are FIGHT FOR FREELANCERS USA, a nonpartisan, grassroots coalition of independent contractors who oppose the use of the ABC Test in federal law. Join us.