Critics: 59 million freelancer jobs, $1.2 trillion in annual earnings at stake in debate over PRO Act

602af235f28a8 imageNot the party of the little guy. 

If enacted, the Democratic-sponsored PRO Act could eliminate most forms of independent contracting, gig work and freelancing – potentially impacting as many as 59 million freelance workers who represent 36 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

In 2020, the freelance community accounted for $1.2 trillion in earnings, according to a report published by UpWork.

UpWork found in a recent survey that freelancers were better able “to weather the COVID-19 storm,” than non-freelancers. More people became freelancers after having been laid off, the report notes, and found that working remotely and changing the way they worked enabled them to better earn a living and provide for their families.

The National Retail Federation describes the PRO Act – Protecting the Right to Organize – as “the worst bill in Congress,” which “features a laundry list of more than 30 radical labor provisions that, if enacted, would strip American workers of critical rights and flexible work opportunities while costing the retail industry billions of dollars.” The federation lists 10 reasons why the bill is bad for workers, including ending the ability for individuals to work independently and ending the gig economy.

The bill would eliminate the growing freelance industry, opponents argue, because it implements an ABC test similar to one enacted in California through its controversial AB5 bill, which became law in January 2020. The PRO Act would require workers to fulfill three criteria in order to keep their jobs. They first need to prove they have “absence of control,” meaning they are not under the direct control of their client. Second, they must show the work they perform is outside the course of a client’s usual business.

An IT worker or an accountant who contracts with a newspaper, American For Prosperity notes, would probably fail the absence of control requirement. A videographer who sells his or her own copyrighted work to a newspaper “would most certainly fail the business of the worker requirement,” AFP notes.