As life in the United States is getting more expensive, more than a quarter of the public is considering taking a side gig to make ends meet.
President Joe Biden’s Department of Labor is trying to make it difficult for independent contractors to legally work as independent contractors. For the second time in just over a year, the Labor Department announced it plans to retire the Trump-era rule that provides a clear and simple definition of who can legally qualify to be an independent contractor. under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In the modern world of the gig economy, the timing of this rollback couldn’t be worse.
The Labor Department, in an effort to overcome adverse court rulings and lend some legitimacy to the destruction of freelancing, held public forums in June to hear the “views” of workers and employers affected by the status of independent employee or classification.
The Trump-era rule was ideal. It hit the sweet spot, providing an economic reality check that gave independent contractors the flexibility to manage their own careers and businesses with the clarity they need to engage in legitimate contractual relationships. According to Upwork, more than 59 million Americans have chosen some form of self-employment in 2021, and more than 85% of these independent contractors prefer self-employment to a traditional employer-employee relationship.
Biden and his Big Labor allies, however, are attacking the livelihoods of freelancers using regulatory workarounds. Biden’s Labor Department is essentially trying to impose the one-size-fits-all approach of California’s disastrous Assembly Bill 5 and its unrealistic judgment that most independent contractors should in fact be treated as W-2 employees.
Since taking effect in 2020, AB 5 has destroyed the careers of hundreds of thousands of independent contractors across a wide range of professions in California, starting with freelance journalists until they were given a special exception. . But if it takes a special exception for freelance journalists to survive, that should make you wonder about all the other freelance professions.
One such occupation is trucking. Currently, more than 70,000 independent owner-operator truckers are waiting to hear if the Supreme Court will take their appeal against AB 5. If not, it’s the end of the road for independent truckers in California. This will surely bring major upheaval to an already strained supply chain.
Meanwhile, app-based ridesharing and delivery platforms are fighting to preserve their exclusion from AB 5 after a voter-approved initiative to save them was ruled unconstitutional by a county state judge. from Alameda.
California’s ABC test for contract workers also appeared in the Biden-endorsed PRO Act, which passed the US House of Representatives in March 2021 but is stalled in the Senate. The PRO law would bring California’s AB 5 mayhem to the entire nation.
Given the Biden administration’s rabid anti-independence stance, the outcome of the Labor Department listening forums is likely a predictable conclusion. Nevertheless, activists in the freelance movement are mobilizing. The ad hoc group Fight For Freelancers USA and other freelance groups are sounding the alarm with a social media campaign called #WhatTheHellDOL.
The campaign urges independent contractors from all walks of life to share stories with the DOL and on social media about why self-employment is essential to their lives and livelihoods.
When the Department of Labor says most of us are poorly classified and need W-2 jobs to survive, we say, what is this, DOL? Like all those independent journalists who demanded an exception, we know what we want to do and for whom we want to work.
Karen Anderson is the founder of Freelancers Against AB5, which has 18,000 members. The group has partnered with Fight For Freelancers USA to launch the #WhatTheHellDOL campaign.