National App-Based Work Alliance Will Advocate for Solutions That Preserve Worker Independence and Access to Benefits
By: Matt S.
President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, the American Jobs Plan, is an incredible opportunity to make much-needed upgrades and help a lot of people in our country. However, included in the package is another piece of legislation called the PRO Act, which could result in a loss of earning opportunities for millions of independent contractors across the country like me.
Here in Arizona, Senators Kirsten Sinema and Mark Kelly haven’t signed onto the PRO Act, meaning the bill’s fate hinges entirely on their decision. I urge both of them to stand with working Arizonans and pass the infrastructure bill without the PRO Act.
The PRO Act – which already passed the House of Representatives – is meant to help workers. However, the problem for independent contractors is part of the bill called the “ABC test” – a three-step system that is used to determine whether a worker is considered an employee or an independent contractor. Most workers who are currently independent contractors would automatically become employees under this provision. That might not sound bad, but if you look under the hood you’ll find that this policy would be tremendously harmful for a lot of folks.
Many workers choose independent work because they need the flexibility to set their own hours and schedules, and make money on their own terms. It can come in a lot of forms – trucking, freelance writing, dancing, or driving and delivering for app-based services.
I’m an independent worker myself. I have a full-time job at a nonprofit helping Arizonans get into college, but nonprofits aren’t exactly known for paying the big bucks. To help make ends meet, I’ve driven part-time with Lyft for over two years, and I’ve been able to achieve financial security while meeting a lot of great people along the way. The flexibility is key; I can drive whenever I’m not working at my other job, but I can still come home for dinner with my wife at any time.
But under the PRO Act, the flexibility that many workers rely on could be gone. Instead, we might have to work set schedules and rigid hours. In that case, I’d have to give up my side work with Lyft entirely – and other independent workers would be impacted similarly. That’s why most independent workers would prefer to remain independent. In fact, according to a recent poll up in Colorado, 77% of app-based workers would prefer to remain independent and over 90% would stop working if it wasn’t flexible.
What’s so surprising about the fact that members of Congress and the Administration are eager to pass a bad policy is that it has already been tried – and failed spectacularly. Next door in California, a bill called Assembly Bill 5 (which has an identical ABC test to the PRO Act) resulted in massive job losses, and left a lot of workers uncertain whether they’d have an occupation at all. Hundreds of industries had to be exempted from it, and an overwhelming number of voters exempted app-based workers at the ballot box.
If the most progressive state in the country didn’t want an ABC test, then national Democrats shouldn’t either.
Arizona is known for its fierce independence and determination to set its own destiny. That spirit of independence could be taken away from working Arizonans if the PRO Act passes. Sen. Sinema and Sen. Kelly ran and won in supporting workers. I hope they’ll do so again and continue to reject the PRO Act, because the ABC test will change independent work as we know it.