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Employee Reclassification Laws Will Destroy Freelancing in America

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft could be on the brink of shutting down in California after a judge ordered them to reclassify independent contractors as employees. 

Why? All companies employing freelancers or individuals partaking in freelancing must comply with Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), the new anti-gig work law. 

It seems benign on the surface. Once readers peruse the bill’s language, they discover its nefarious goals.  

It erroneously claims the “misclassification of workers as independent contractors has been a significant factor in the erosion of the middle class and the rise in income inequality.” And its federal companion bill, the PRO Act—supported by Democrats like Joe Biden—is equally damning. 

Gig workers, who primarily identify as independent contractors, aren’t worse off due to their current status. Seeking to reclassify them as employees will carry serious legal ramifications and jeopardize many livelihoods.

Dem-Backed Unions Attack Gig Work Due to Shrinking Influence

Democrats and their public sector union allies malign freelancing. To them, imposing union rules on gig workers is an effective way to quash competition. 

Why is there a concerted push to undermine companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash? It’s quite clear: Public sector unions are losing relevance and can’t compete anymore. Membership is at an all-time low. Brookings Institution attributes the decline to growth of service-based jobs, deregulation, and adoption of right-to-work legislation by states, among many reasons.  

According to a January 2020 Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) report, only 10.3 percent of the U.S. workforce currently holds union membership. In 1983, about 20 percent of the workforce—or 17.7 million Americans— belonged to unions. 

In contrast, freelancers—independent contractors, diversified workers, moonlighters, freelance business owners, and temporary workers— comprise 35 percent of the workforce, with 57 million full-time and part-time participants. And more American workers are considering freelancing on account of the pandemic. 

What Exploitation and Oppression? Freelance Workers Voluntarily Choose Their Lifestyle

Are freelancers exploited and oppressed? Fake news.   

The 2019 “Freelancing in America” report from Upwork, a global freelancing platform, reveals these workers are thriving and enjoying their independence. 

45 percent of freelancers provide skilled services in fields like programming, marketing, IT, and business consulting. 60 percent of freelancers polled entered it voluntarily while 40 percent entered it out of necessity.

What explains their decision to choose gig work? Three top reasons include flexibility, being one’s own boss, and having the freedom to work in different locations. 

Between 2014 to 2019, full-time freelancers grew from 17 percent to 28 percent of the freelance workforce, respectively. In 2019, freelancers contributed $1 trillion to the U.S. economy, constituting nearly five percent of the U.S. GDP. 

Talk about a massive economic footprint!

According to their findings, a typical U.S. worker is paid $18.80 per hour while the median freelancer is paid $20 per hour. For skilled services, the median hourly rate for freelancers is $28 per hour. 

Moreover, 67 percent of freelancers prefer to take home more pay to apply towards their own benefits. 

Joe Biden Openly Campaigning on Employee Reclassification

Don’t be surprised to see Joe Biden endorse anti-gig worker, pro-collective bargaining policies. It’s on-brand for him. 

In February, Biden tweeted praise for the House of Representatives passing the PRO Act. In May, he reiterated support for the PRO Act’s companion bill, AB5. 

Biden’s campaign website clearly spells out his support for this disastrous policy:

Aggressively pursue employers who violate labor laws, participate in wage theft, or cheat on their taxes by intentionally misclassifying employees as independent contractors. 

As president, Biden will put a stop to employers intentionally misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. He will enact legislation that makes worker misclassification a substantive violation of law under all federal labor, employment, and tax laws with additional penalties beyond those imposed for other violations. And, he will build on efforts by the Obama-Biden Administration to drive an aggressive, all-hands-on-deck enforcement effort that will dramatically reduce worker misclassification. He will direct the U.S. Department of Labor to engage in meaningful, collaborative enforcement partnerships, including with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, and state tax, unemployment insurance, and labor agencies. And, while Trump has weakened enforcement by sabotaging the enforcement agencies and slashing their investigator corps, Biden will fund a dramatic increase in the number of investigators in labor and employment enforcement agencies to facilitate a large anti-misclassification effort. 


As a freelance media strategist and writer, I’m very concerned about Democrats pushing an anti-business policy that would destroy 57 million livelihoods—mine included. 

Four years ago, I became self-employed on my own volition. I enjoy the freedom to work for and associate with many clients. I make far more money now than I did working for someone else. And I’m much happier, healthier, and productive since I ditched the 9-to-5.

Let me be clear: The government didn’t build my business. And I don’t need a public sector union to represent my business interests. 

Freelancers are their own best advocates; let us speak for ourselves. Don’t punish us for voluntarily choosing this lifestyle.

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