PRO Act Spells Trouble for Arizona’s Independent Workers

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

Written by Shawnta W.

Independent work wasn’t something I was sure I would enjoy right away. I first found out about it 6 years ago, after spending a couple of months looking for a new job, when my friend suggested driving for Uber. It took a bit of getting used to, but I quickly found that it’s something I really enjoy, and something I plan to continue doing for a long time.

Once I started driving, I found I was earning the income that I needed to make, and better yet, driving gave me an opportunity to be more social and meet people from all walks of life. After driving so many different people and having so many conversations, it’s really given me a glimpse into what those in my community are going through, especially during the pandemic. So many people don’t have someone to talk to right now, and I can see that they appreciate having a driver who's willing to listen to their story, even if it’s just for a short ride.

Another aspect that I’ve grown to really appreciate about driving is the ability to create my own schedule. It requires some discipline to go out on your own each day without a set schedule, but it allows me to meet my family’s needs and adjust my hours if I need to. That flexibility is especially important to me as a single mom because it lets me be there for my son when he needs me. If I need to change my schedule to fit my son’s needs or pick him up from school, I can do so without having to worry about answering to a boss or missing a shift.

If I lost that flexibility, I’m not sure that I’d be able to keep driving. Having the ability to set my work around my family’s schedule is incredibly valuable, and I’m not sure if having a rigid schedule would work for me.

Unfortunately, I may have to do just that if the Senate passes the PRO Act. That’s because included in the bill is a provision called the “ABC Test,” which is carried over almost exactly from Assembly Bill 5 in California. It’s a way to distinguish workers as independent contractors or employees and, under the ABC Test, a lot of independent workers like me would be forced to become more traditional employees and ultimately lose our ability to make our own schedules.

App-based workers and drivers like me aren’t the only ones who need to be able to count on being independent, either. Freelancers, artists, musicians, and more could be forced to find new avenues for work if the PRO Act passes. Right now, as more and more people are looking for ways to work independently, that could be devastating.

So far, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly have not signed on to the bill, and for good reason. It would completely change the way Arizonans like me work, and a lot of us would be forced out of app-based work altogether. I have full faith that Senators Sinema and Kelly recognize this, and will ultimately vote against the PRO Act.

While driving was a bit different than the work I had been used to before, it’s something that I enjoy and that has helped me grow personally and be the best mom I can be. I know I’m not alone in feeling that way, and I’m glad that Arizona’s senators have so far stood up for independent workers in our state.

Shawnta W. is an Uber driver from Phoenix, AZ.