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OPINION
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GOP Can Court New Voters By Championing Freelancing

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

After a “red tsunami” failed to materialize for Republicans on Election Day, many are wondering how to proceed these next two years. 

With a Democrat-held Senate and potentially Republican-led House of Representatives, gridlock will be welcomed. But that’s not a reason to become complacent.

Townhall Managing Editor Spencer Brown analyzed here and here what exactly went wrong last Tuesday. A lot of accountability should be demanded from everyone from the former president to party leadership. 

While Republicans made significant strides with non-white voting blocs, those gains couldn’t surpass losses with independent voters who dislike Biden’s policies. It’s also increasingly clear, despite an awful political climate for Democrats, they aren’t fans of former President Donald Trump or candidates too closely associated with him either. 

If Republicans desire to win and go on offense ahead of the 2024 elections, they must put support for freelancing at the forefront. 

Too Many in GOP Downplay Democrat War on Freelancing

When interviewing and privately speaking with Republican candidates for office this past cycle, I asked a handful of them their thoughts on Biden’s War on Freelancing. 

Nobody is asking this important question, so I felt–and still feel–compelled to ask. Why not? This question should be posed. 

A couple, like Senator-elect Eric Schmitt (R–MO), understood the threat posed to independent contractors and gig workers. Others I spoke to said it wasn’t important to them or yet on their radar. 

I hope more Republicans study the issue. Otherwise, it’s a lost opportunity for the GOP. 

On the legislative side, some Republicans got complacent and didn’t think the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would pass–for now–because three Democratic Senators didn’t lend their names to this monstrosity of a bill. However, had it passed it would have repealed right-to-work, made union membership conditional for employment and would reclassify workers as employees and not independent contractors, for instance. With Democrats expected to hold the Senate and control of the House of Representatives yet to be determined, as of this writing, don’t be shocked if and when the PRO Act is reintroduced again. And don’t be shocked if it potentially gains more traction. Elected Republicans must oppose it. 

On the regulatory side - through the Labor Department - the Biden administration could bypass Congress and upend the Fair Labor Standards Act under the proposed Employee or Independent Contractor Classification Under the Fair Labor Standards Act rule. If enacted, it’ll become harder for workers to prove they’re independent contractors and not default employees. 

Thankfully, House Education and Labor Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Workforce Protections Subcommittee Republican Leader Fred Keller (R-PA) have vowed to fight this rule. Small business champions in the Senate, including Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), are also steadfast supporters of flexible work arrangements and will steer other members in the right direction.

If GOP Leads on Freelancing, New Voters Will Flock to Them

With very few pro-freelance Democratic lawmakers in federal office – Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), Mark Warner (D-VA), and sometimes Joe Manchin (D-WV)—Republicans can seize the moment and be the party that leads on the issue. 

Freelancing is bipartisan, but Republicans can go on offense and appeal to center-left and independent-leaning freelancers who feel betrayed by Democrats.

Why? More polls show growing bipartisan opposition to abolishing right-to-work, forced unionization, and to placing limitations on independent contracting. A June 2021 Forbes-Tate poll determined

•70% of voters are concerned about the PRO Act abolishing state right-to-work protections, forcing workers to pay union dues, or risk losing their jobs. (68% of Democrats, 65% of Independents, and 74% of Republicans are concerned.) 

• 57% of voters (including 47% of Democrats and 69% of Independent voters) believe workers should not be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. 

The economic trends increasingly favor freelance work, too.

By 2028, approximately 90 million workers – over half the U.S. workforce – will partake in some form of flexible work. And workers themselves favor independent contracting over traditional employee-employer arrangements. 

A recent Flex Association Worker Survey found nearly 8 in 10 rideshare drivers–who also fall under freelancing–prefer to be independent contractors and not employees.

Pew Research Center’s “State of the Gig Worker 2021” report similarly found flexible worker self-perceptions and respondent perceptions of freelancers nearly mirrored each other — with both respondents favoring the independent contractor label over employee one. 

Pew elaborated

This survey asked Americans for their views on this issue – and a majority (62%) say the most appropriate way to describe ride-hailing drivers is as independent contractors providing a service on behalf of the apps or websites. Smaller shares (35%) say these drivers are best described as employees who work directly for these platforms.… Gig platform workers’ self-perceptions follow a similar pattern – 65% see themselves as independent contractors, while 28% view themselves as employees. 

Conclusion

Conservatism is not the issue; voters want a Republican Party that follows through with promises to rein in government spending and high taxation. Independent and center-left voters, much like Republican voters, want a viable alternative to Democrats that protects freelancing and independent contracting. 

Vow to protect 59 million livelihoods—36% of the workforce– and you'll win over disillusioned Democrats and independents in future election cycles. 


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