D.C.-Area Lawmakers should listen to local workers and remove the ABC test from the PRO Act

National App-Based Work Alliance Will Advocate for Solutions That Preserve Worker Independence and Access to Benefits

By: Jared G.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is a textbook case of good intentions gone awry. The bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives and could very well pass the Senate, is meant to help workers like me. In reality it contains a provision known as the “ABC test” that could take away the flexibility of independent contracting and potentially put millions of independent contractors out of work. That’s why I was alarmed to see every D.C.-area House member vote in favor of the PRO Act, and why it is imperative that our U.S. Senators reject it.

This is personal to me, because I’m an independent worker in Northern Virginia who relies on a flexible work schedule to look after my health and run a small business.

When I was in my 20’s, I underwent three spinal surgeries, two of which failed. To this day, I suffer from chronic pain, and the frequent flare-ups mean I need the ability to take breaks and time off. That’s why I’ve driven with Uber for over three years, in addition to running my own independent doggy day care business. Because I have the freedom to set my own hours and make my own work schedule, I can stop any time I need a break, or tend to my business whenever I need.

Under the ABC test in the PRO Act, an independent contractor like me could automatically be reclassified as an employee unless they could fulfill strict requirements to remain independent, requirements most independent contractors cannot satisfy. As employees, we could have rigid schedules and set hours that we wouldn’t have any control over. Me and thousands of other workers could lose the freedom and flexibility we want.

If I were reclassified as an employee, it would not only be hard to look after my health, but would also make it harder to earn the income I need.

For example, in pre-pandemic times, I would often make trips to and from Dulles International Airport during peak travel hours in order to get more rides and earn more income. If I were constrained to certain schedules, I might have to work when there are fewer riders, meaning I’m missing out on the tips and rides that make driving worthwhile.

What’s all the more frustrating about this push to establish an ABC test under the PRO Act is that California already proved that the policy is deeply flawed and unpopular. After California passed a bill called Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which has an identical ABC test, thousands of independent workers – from writers to actors to truck drivers – saw their hours slashed or their work vanish altogether. To prevent mass unemployment, the state had to exempt around a hundred industries from the requirements, and voters later exempted app-based workers like me by overwhelmingly supporting Proposition 22 at the ballot box.

When Prop 22 passed, I breathed a sigh of relief, because I was sure that progressives around the country would learn from those in California and abandon the ABC test once for all. Yet just a few months later, the PRO Act is closer than ever to making the ABC test a reality for every state.

With tight margins in the Senate and the House, every Democratic vote is potentially decisive. I am thankful that Senator Mark Warner isn’t signing onto this bill, and I hope area House members who voted for it, like my Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, will reconsider should it come up again.

I urge them to call an Uber driver, chat with a truck driver, call that freelance journalist that interviewed them once. Ask them what flexibility means to them, and what would happen if it was taken away. If they do, they’ll realize the PRO Act needs to be rejected because of its ABC test.