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Oppose the PRO Act, and support American Workers.

February 19, 2021 by  
Filed under Money/Business, News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( Politicians are fighting for American workers, they tell us.

They claim to represent their interests and endlessly beat the “pro-worker” drum.

Does their rhetoric match their actions? Hardly.

How can one be “pro-worker” while supporting legislation that destroys freelancing and displaces 59 million gig workers? They can’t. This position is anti-worker to the core.

A growing share of the U.S. workforce—36 percent—is participating in the gig economy, compared to 10.8 percent that is unionized.

Don’t be fooled by the PRO Acts promise to “restore fairness” to the economy. It’s a Trojan horse designed to quash our nation’s burgeoning independent workforce.

Dissecting the PRO Act

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act of 2021, boasting updated House and Senate versions, sounds benign on the surface. But the devil is in the details.

Among its many troubling components, two provisions stand out: repealing right-to-work laws for “fair share agreements” and implementing a national ABC test, borrowing from California’s disastrous AB5, to coerce independent contractors into employee arrangements.

Unsurprisingly, it’s received support from President Joe Biden, his Labor Secretary nominee, most Congressional Democrats and yes—even a handful of House Republicans.

Now-President Biden’s campaign pledged to nationalize California AB5’s ABC test:

States like California have already paved the way by adopting a clearer, simpler, and stronger three-prong “ABC test” to distinguish employees from independent contractors. The ABC test will mean many more workers will get the legal protections and benefits they rightfully should receive. As president, Biden will work with Congress to establish a federal standard modeled on the ABC test for all labor, employment, and tax laws. 

But wait, there’s more! 

Isabel Soto, American Action Forum’s labor policy analyst, noted the PRO Act “implicates 8.5 percent of gross domestic product” and will lead to an estimated “$17.2 billion to $33.3 billion in lost annual output.”

So much for healing and unifying the country…

Different Motivations for Opposing the PRO Act

The PRO Act’s opponents boast different motivations for opposing the bill.

Some simply oppose the ABC test provision. Others wholly reject it on grounds it’ll destroy right-to-work laws and violate workers’ privacy.

Patrice Onwuka, senior policy analyst at Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), argues the PRO Act, if passed, will set back women’s workplace gains.

“Exporting AB5 to the rest of the nation should be a non-starter,” she wrote at RealClearPolitics. “Enacting the PRO Act would place the employment opportunities of millions of women across the country at risk and set women’s progress back even further.”

Debbie Abrams Kaplan, a freelance journalist and Fight for Freelancers USA co-founder, said she opposes the worker reclassification provision since it’s faulty and outdated.

“I oppose including the ABC test in the PRO Act and in any state or federal legislation,” Kaplan said. “The test was developed in the 1930s to help factory workers and does not account for the way work is done today.”

“Legitimate freelancers cannot pass the ABC test in the PRO Act, which requires that the worker not be in the same line of business as the client.”

Bradley Madsen, a freelance musician and band leader, agrees with Kaplan.

“I’m against the PRO Act in its current form,” Madsen explained. “The ABC test is so rigid that it would force all musicians to be employees of the contractors that hire them.”

He conveyed he’s “actually pro union, on the whole” and offered, “I could accept the PRO Act otherwise if the ABC test weren’t a part of it, even if I don’t like some of it. But, the ABC test is toxic to our economy in so many ways, as is being proven in California.”

Ignoring the Will of 59 Million Freelancers

Very few freelancers want to be reclassified. In fact, they don’t want to be liberated from flexibility.

Fewer than one in 10 independent contractors support a traditional working environment. A 2019 Contently study similarly found 88 percent of independent contractors oppose worker reclassification laws.

Patrice Onwuka noted working women prefer flexible arrangements with companies over rigid ones.

“Now is not the time to restrict flexible work arrangements that women value,” she added. “Flexibility is important to 94% of working women in the gig economy, according to a 2018 survey. Nearly two out of three (61%) say they prefer to have an independent relationship with their chosen companies versus being an employee.”

Debbie Kaplan similarly worries her robust client load will disappear if this bill were to pass.

“Freelancing gives me the flexibility to be there for my kids while still earning a great living,” she noted.

Bradley Madsen also expressed concern about work flexibility being jeopardized under the proposed law.

“This is problematic for musicians in many ways,” he added. “If someone wants me to be exclusive, I can negotiate more favorable terms because I would be limiting my ability to accept other gigs. However, as an employee, non-compete clauses and moonlighting clauses that block you from working from competitors are common. That would severely limit my ability to perform, because agencies could require exclusivity, and because it would be industry and nationwide, could even end up suppressing wages.”


Gig workers are American workers, too. And attempts to reclassify them should be challenged head-on.

Much to the chagrin of regulators, independent contractors, moonlighters, contingent workers, and other freelancers—all 59 million of us— are here to stay. And you’ll be hearing more from us.

Support American workers? Join us in opposing the PRO Act.

Columnist; Gabriella Hoffman

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