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Politicians' Failure to Understand Freelance Work Could Cripple the Gig Economy

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As many freelancers know, the workplace flexibility associated with their profession often comes with a cost. Most do not receive health benefits and a fixed salary, but many are willing to trade these things for the ability to work from anywhere and decide their schedule.

And while lawmakers continue to push bills that, on the surface, seem to improve freelancers’ lives, there is more to the story.

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act passed in the House of Representatives on March 9, and if passed in the Senate, it could serve as a federal version of California’s Assembly Bill 5.

Like the 2019 California bill, the PRO Act seeks to uplift freelancers, preventing businesses from supposedly taking advantage of their work by “misclassifying” them as independent contractors.

The intention behind forcing businesses to classify freelancers as employees may be to offer them stability. But when put into practice, the PRO Act is far more likely to hurt the people it seeks to help.

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The Problem with Legislating Freelance Work

On the day the PRO Act passed in the House, President Joe Biden issued a statement in support of the measure. But the president’s endorsement reflects the problem with politicians attempting to interfere with independent contract work — a profession they appear unable to understand.

“I urge Congress to send the PRO Act to my desk so we can seize the opportunity to build a future that reflects working people’s courage and ambition, and offers not only good jobs with a real choice to join a union — but the dignity, equity, shared prosperity and common purpose the hardworking people who built this country and make it run deserve.”

But many freelancers do not want this sort of help from politicians. Some cannot or do not want to work full-time, but they may lose work due to politicians interfering with their livelihoods.

Should companies be forced to hire freelancers as full-time employees?

According to Upwork’s 2019 “Freelancing in America” report, 51 percent of freelancers said they would not take a full-time job, even if it paid better.

The report also noted 60 percent of freelancers are in the profession by choice. Another 46 percent of people said freelancing provides them with work opportunities they otherwise would not have available to them.

As freelance Journalist Kenny Cody told The Western Journal in an emailed statement Friday, it is “ridiculous” to expect companies to “treat each and every freelancer as if they are a full-time employee.” The writer also warned that restricting the market would harm a “majority” of political commentators like him.

“I am a freelancer, but I’m also a full-time teacher that is allowed to write articles for a variety of different websites such as Newsmax.com, Townhall.com, and The Libertarian Republic,” Cody wrote. “I do not want my contributions as a full-time responsibility, I just want my voice heard.”

Cody pointed out that another one of the PRO Act’s consequences is that it will set “higher expectations” for people who want to write for news outlets without the pressure of a full-time position.

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“If I wanted to be a full-time writer, I could be. But I just enjoy sharing my opinions when they come to my mind with the world without the stress of a deadline or pressure from editors to write on a specific subject,” he added.

AB5 Caused Problems for Freelancers: Why Would the PRO Act Be Any Different?

The PRO Act’s similarities to AB5 should also inspire little confidence in the bill’s success. As the nonprofit Independent Women’s Forum pointed out on its website, the results of AB5 were “disastrous” for Californians.

“Companies that had previously worked with a number of contractors hired only a small number of full-time employees to replace these contractors and independent contractors throughout the state found that their income was either reduced or completely gone overnight,” IWF policy analyst Charlotte Whelan wrote.

Instead of protecting workers, AB5 limited flexible work opportunities for many freelancers in the state. Even worse, it did so in the middle of a nationwide pandemic, when lockdown orders had already reduced many traditional employment opportunities.

“Small businesses, too, were hit with a one-two punch of AB5 and the coronavirus pandemic: many small businesses can’t afford to hire traditional employees since they operate with a small budget so they hire independent contractors,” Whelan added.

“AB5 forced many of these businesses to simply let go of their independent contractors. Pandemic lockdowns made matters worse, forcing some of them to close their doors.”

Instead of micromanaging freelance jobs out of existence, politicians should leave people alone and allow them to pursue the work opportunities they feel are most beneficial to them.

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Samantha Kamman is an associate staff writer for The Western Journal. She has been published in several media outlets, including Live Action News and the Washington Examiner.
Samantha Kamman is an associate staff writer for The Western Journal. She has been published in several media outlets, including Live Action News and the Washington Examiner.




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