I supported Biden and the Democrats. But their pro-union bill could kill my career.
Last year, like many other Democrats, I took action. I campaigned, responded to misinformation on social media, and donated money to candidates. I celebrated when Joe Biden was announced as the winner of the Presidency and when the Democrats took over the Senate.
The bill could end my ability to be my own boss, set my own hours, and otherwise live out the American worker’s dream.
me too wrote a book to remind me – and for all of us – that honesty was something that still mattered, despite the most dishonest person imaginable running our country. But now that Donald Trump has been removed from office, I am faced with a painful truth: the man I prayed to become president could sign a law that would kill my career as a freelance writer.
It is the strangest political cognitive dissonance I have ever known.
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Right now my party is pushing a bill called the Law on the Protection of the Right to Organize, or the PRO Act, in a conspicuous attempt to help construction workers exploited by employers who will not give them health care coverage and other benefits. But because of a problematic clause in the bill, it is much more of a disadvantage than for me. The bill could end my ability to be my own boss, set my own hours, and otherwise live out the American worker’s dream.
The problem with the measure, which is voted on by the House on Tuesday, is its way of determining who is considered an employee. Instead of using IRS standard, which can tell the difference between an independent contractor and an employee, he uses a much narrower standard from the 1930s – called the ABC test– it can’t.
According to the ABC test, companies should treat someone like me like an employee – with all the rights and benefits that comes with it – even if I’m only writing one story for them. Ditto for all types of creatives who support each other through concerts, such as actors, artists and musicians. How many companies will continue to use our services under these circumstances? It is simply not feasible.
Being an employee might seem like an improvement to me, but the least I’ve ever done as a full-time freelance writer was still more than I had ever earned on someone else’s payroll. I have supported my family of four in this way for 20 years. (My husband is a stay-at-home dad.) We buy health insurance from our state’s stock exchange – which admittedly isn’t cheap – but the compromise is worth it because I have flexibility and independence and I am not subject to the whims of an employer.
And I am not an anomaly. According to Upwork’s Self-employed workforce report 202075 percent of independent contractors who have left freelance employers say they earn the same amount or more money now. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 79 percent of independent entrepreneurs prefer to retain their self-employed status rather than being employees.
But for the 1 in 5 American workers who are independent contractors, this option could disappear. Last year when California enacted a bill, known as AB5, which purportedly protected exploitation workers from exploitation, he used the ABC test. the stories of lost work in over 150 professions were heartbreaking.
And U.S heard several times how the law particularly hurt women, people of color and parents of children with disabilities, who often choose the flexibility of freelancing, especially if they have experienced discrimination in the workplace. The legislature was later to pass an invoice to clean up the mess, and voters overturned part of it in a referendum.
California should have been a wake-up call for Democrats, but the result did nothing to stop the House from rushing to pass national legislation to enshrine the ABC test in law. (Fortunately, it looks like the Senate is a bit more willing to put the brakes on.)
And that’s one of the most disappointing aspects of how it turned out. Instead of listening, Democratic lawmakers are doing what I’ve long criticized Republicans for: resorting to talking points that play well at one base while ignoring the facts. The house rules allowed this bill be voted on Tuesday without a full committee hearing – so no chance to testify from freelancers like me.
It would be wrong to say that no one is listening, because Republicans certainly are. They proposed amendments to remove the ABC test from the bill, for which I am grateful, although I know we agree on few other things.
When I contacted my own Democratic Senator here in Ohio, Sherrod Brown, his office told me another bill he introduced that he claims to solve the ABC test problem for freelancers like me. To me, that means he knows my livelihood is in danger, but prefers to take the California approach of cleaning up after the fact – when lives have already been damaged.
Beyond that, all of my colleagues and I have heard Democrats responding to our concerns talk about how they stand up for American workers. Am I not counting as an American worker? And if I don’t, what exactly have I supported all these years?
I know what I believe in – things like ending systemic racism, better support for families and children, increased suffrage and fairness in schools. Yet now I find myself looking at the Democrats’ slogans and questioning my assumption that their bills really help the people who need them most.
I recognize that I have adhered to broad rhetoric about people’s power, generally pushing for the most progressive and welfare policies that have easily replicable language on things like “the dignity of work.” But when you’re the one whose job is suddenly threatened, it’s a little more complicated.
The PRO law is specifically aimed at strengthening the right of employees to organize, which I support, and some workers are certainly exploited by companies who make them independent contractors to avoid paying benefits. But you know what? That’s why we have the IRS test. Use it.
But don’t pass sweeping legislation that crushes the vast majority of independent contractors and doesn’t call it part of your plan. “to create an economy where everyone can succeed“It’s a great slogan, and it plays well on a Twitter video, but it’s hypocrisy as long as the ABC test is part of your plan to do it.
I always believe that good ideas and serious people will be heard. But for now, I feel like I’m being sacrificed for union support.
I still cling to my idealistic Leslie Knope-ish tendencies. I always believe that good ideas and serious people will be heard. But right now I feel like I’m being sacrificed for union support – the main interest group pushing this legislation. And given the vitriol that my colleagues and I get on Twitter, as being repeatedly called “scabs,” I don’t think there will be any greeting cards this year.
I’m not looking for sympathy. After all, I am a well paid professional with great luck in my name. What I’m looking for is to be heard by the party I’ve always believed to best appreciate the breadth and breadth of America.
Rebuild better? Absolutely. But independent gas lighting contractors are a woefully poor foundation.