The PRO Act 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 claimed that the labor union-backed bills were “landmark legislation to protect workers’ rights to organize.”
Yet later that year, the legislation changed to contain some of the same language as the disastrous California AB5, which was enacted into law on January 1, 2020. The legislation all but outlaws the chosen careers of independent contractors in that state. The result has been lost contracts and lost income for thousands of freelancers.
That’s because the legislation is based on the Great Depression-era “ABC” test, which determines whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee, regardless of whether they own and run a business. Supporters of such legislation claim it merely codifies existing rules. In reality, it drastically limits who can work as an independent contractor.
Why the PRO Act Now? It’s Life Support for Declining Labor Unions.
Supporters of the PRO Act, including numerous House and Senate Democrats, some Republicans, and labor unions, claim it’s about protecting the right for employees to organize and penalizing employers from interfering with their right to form a union.
While Fight for Freelancers USA supports legislation that protects workers, the PRO Act overreaches by forcing independent contractors to be reclassified as employees, even if they operate as independent businesses, have signed contracts with clients, or are organized as limited liability companies (LLCs) or S-corporations.
Whom does this legislation benefit?
Unions. Faced with plummeting membership numbers, they have used the PRO Act—which was drafted and backed by labor unions— to orchestrate their own bailout by limiting the ability of successful small businesses to continue to operate. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers tell the story:
• Union membership is 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? 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, force independent contractors to become employees, whether they want to be employees or not. More employees mean more chances to make them union members.
Though the PRO Act’s target appears to be so-called “gig economy” workers, it also affects millions of knowledge workers and creative professionals such as writers, photographers, musicians, IT consultants, engineers, artists, and myriad other professionals.
Labor unions are among the top donors to the Democratic Party.
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 Democrat who opposes 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
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.” U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R -North Carolina) said, “Democrats are trying to claim, falsely, that the economy isn’t working for average Americans, and the only way to fix it is to expand and force unionism.”
But independent contractors across the country have reported that they freelance because they prefer the be their own bosses.
75 percent of independent contractors say they prefer freelancing over a full-time job2019 Contently survey
We are FIGHT FOR FREELANCERS USA, a non-partisan, grassroots coalition of independent contractors who oppose the PROAct. Join us.