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Majority of House Democrats Want to Put Freelancers Like Me Out Of Business

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

The majority of Congressional Democrats currently serving in the House of Representatives want to put me and millions of other American freelancers out of business.

Am I exaggerating? I wish I were.

Congress is set to hear House Bill 2474, or Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019, this week. Of the 232 Democrats currently serving in the House, 215 signed on as original co-sponsors. Since then, one resigned (Katie Hill of California), one passed away (Elijah Cummings of Maryland), and one switched to the Republican Party (Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey).

In a letter dated January 9, 2020, co-sponsors of HR 2474 urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) to bring it to the House floor. (See the full list of signatures here.)

I’m not surprised to see three Republicans supporting this disastrous bill too. Co-sponsors include Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

On the surface, H.R. 2474 appears harmless. The bill’s text suggests it would revise or amend the National Labor Relations Act, the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, among many things, in the name of “workers” against allegedly worker misclassification. When you dig further into the bill’s language and proposed revisions, however, it gets nefarious.

For instance, if you look at Section II of the bill, as it pertains to the National Labor Relations Act, it would redefine what an “employee” is by extending such a classification to independent contractors:

An individual performing any service shall be considered an employee (except as provided in the previous sentence) and not an independent contractor, unless

(A) the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under the contract for the performance of service and in fact;

(B) the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and

(C) the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.”

Here’s a screenshot from the bill as it pertains to Section 2 of the revised NLRA:

It goes on to talk about collective bargaining and all the wonderful penalties they plan to impose to rectify the supposed problem of worker misclassification. Oh joy. Read the full text of the bill here to see for yourself.

I warned back in December about the dangers of replicating California’s Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) nationwide. AB5 rightfully drew the ire of many in the media when it was revealed the law would cap the number of articles freelancers can produce yearly at 35. And it has had more far-reaching consequences than this.

The bill’s author, California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D- San Diego), issued this statement in support of AB5 becoming law:

More than a million Californians have been misclassified by employers looking to cut costs at the expense of workers. Companies relying on this illegal business model decimate the state’s worker safety-net programs, undermine fair competition, and subject law-abiding businesses to unfair competition.

Since becoming law on January 1st, AB5 has adversely affected dozens of industries and tens of thousands of gig economy workers spanning all political and socio-economic lines. How? It reclassified independent contractors as employees and forced them to lose contracts with businesses. If you need to get caught up on the disaster that is AB5, read hereherehere, and here.

RedState’s Kira Davis has been loudly sounding the alarm on these two bills. Davis noted there are two versions of H.R. 2474 — a May 2019 one and the December 2019 version. The former repudiated Janus (a good court decision) while the latter appears to be a regurgitation of AB5. Davis noted the change in language very succinctly:

H.R.2474 – benignly titled ‘The PRO Act’ was originally drafted in May of 2019 as a union-strengthening bill. In its infancy it had nothing to do with independent contractors and everything to do with thwarting the Janus decision. On its face the bill is a complete disaster and could have chilling repercussions for employers and small-business, including stripping employers of their ability to stay open during union strikes. If the only thing this bill pertained to were mediation and strike rules, it would be terrifying enough. We should all be amazed that the business community and Congress have allowed this to fly under the radar since last May.

But this is government and with government there is never enough. Somewhere between September of 2019 and December of 2019 someone added an amendment to the behemoth employer-rights killer that was a simple copy and paste of California’s AB5. In fact, it is so awkwardly jammed into the text that it can be nothing other than a literal copy and paste.

AB5, as you may be aware, went into effect on January 1, 2020. Immediately, independent contractors and freelancers across many industries—catering, entertaining, media, trucking, construction, etc.—became unemployed and had their contracts terminated by companies who have ceased business operations in California.

Ironically, Vox Media previously championed the law and then announced layoffs back in December. Vox Media mistakenly believed gig workers wanted so-called labor protections. Boy, were they wrong:

“By making it hard for employers to misclassify employees as independent contractors, potentially millions of California workers who’ve been kept off payrolls will get basic labor rights for the first time, like overtime pay and unemployment benefits,” Vox read. “This includes janitors, construction workers, security guards, and hotel housekeepers — and yes, this group also includes Uber and Lyft drivers.”

Are Republicans and conservatives the only people opposed to AB5 and, by extension, H.R. 2474? You’d be surprised to learn they aren’t alone. Even independents and Democrats feel betrayed by the promises of AB5 and will surely be opposed to its federal companion bill, H.R. 2474.

If Congress really wanted to support gig workers’ rights, they would work to amend and reduce the Self-Employment Tax, which currently sits at 15.3%. (Trump’s tax bill, interestingly enough, delivered some relief to independent contractors back in 2018.)

Why am I so concerned about H.R. 2474? Easy. It’ll kill my freelance business. It’s very personal for me.

When I’m not writing articles for The Resurgent, I’m running a freelance media consulting business. Most of my income is generated through contracts I maintain with my clients. Just recently, I celebrated three years of being self-employed and just had my best year in earnings yet. In 2020, I’m expected to double my earnings by at least 50%. I’ve worked tirelessly to grow my business and hope to never return to a regular job.

I’m much happier being my own boss. I maintain a better work-life balance. I love the flexibility that comes with choosing my work hours and choosing clients to work with— on my own terms. I’m not exploited as a gig worker nor am I exploiting others when I enter a contractual agreement. Partaking in a freelancing gig is free will, not coercion or abuse.

My work output, my choice!

And I’m not alone in this thinking. 57 million other Americans enjoy freelancing too. (More on this in a bit.)

Yet if this bill becomes law, the clients who work with me on a contractor basis would have to reclassify me as an employee—making it harder for everyone to operate. My clients will likely have to cut ties with me, while I will have to settle for less revenue and possibly subjecting myself to working for one company again. No thank you. I’m happily content where I am in my professional career—and that is working with multiple clients.

The gig economy has shaped our economy for the better. Why are the majority of House Democrats and a handful of Republican co-sponsors placing a target on millions of Americans who have done them no harm? Is it because they despise free enterprise and the right-to-work? Is it because they want to satisfy their union leader donors? What gives?

According to Upwork’s 6th annual “Freelancing in America” survey, 57 million Americans partake in freelancing. These 57 million Americans contribute $1 trillion to the economy, or the equivalent of 5% of the U.S. GDP. These 57 million Americans are making freelancing a viable longterm career choice, boast advanced skillsets, believe workplace freedom awards them more flexibility, and are mostly Millennials and younger Americans.

If this bill ever became law, it would be an unmitigated disaster.

Younger generations tend to incline themselves to the Democrat Party. Will that outlook change if they erode their livelihoods through this bill? I would hope so. Nobody should stand for this, especially under the false guise of “protecting workers rights.”

The government should never determine work output. I hope my fellow Millennials will realize this when researching about H.R. 2474.

In sum, this bill is toxic and will have deleterious effects on freelancer autonomy. Not only that, our economy will suffer too. Contact your lawmakers and urge them to vote NO on this bill. Let’s hope it dies in the U.S. Senate.

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