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Americans have been freelancing for hundreds of years. More and more all the time are starting to enjoy the freedom, the income and the lifestyle that freelancing can give you.
The number of U.S. freelancers has grown to at least 60 million, in fact, and should be increasing quite a bit over the coming years. But not if the PRO Act becomes law and stops freelancing in its tracks.
Find out what the PRO Act is, how it could stop you from freelancing, how we can unite against it, and how to contact the lawmakers who need to help us win the fight against PRO Act.
Unite Against the PRO Act to Save Your Freelance Life
What is the PRO Act?
You haven’t heard of the PRO Act yet? That’s okay. A lot of freelancers haven’t.
The PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act is bill H.R. 842, recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill ostensibly seeks to expand labor rights in the United States by making it easier to unionize and to prevent employers from deliberately misclassifying workers as independent contractors.
In short, PRO Act supporters say that it will protect independent workers. In reality, though, independent workers don’t need to be protected by the PRO Act; we need to be protected from the PRO Act.
You can read the PRO Act bill in full right here.
One of the many problems with PRO Act’s purpose is that in the real world, most independent workers are not misclassified at all. Most freelancers are clearly freelancers and could not possibly be mistaken for employees by anyone.
If you’re an employee of a company who needs your rights as a worker to be protected by a union, the PRO Act may be a good thing. If you’re a freelancer, PRO Act is definitely not a good thing.
The PRO Act bill was passed by the House of Representatives on March 9, 2021 and is now on its way to the Senate. If the Senate passes it, it will go to President Biden, who will likely sign it into law. There is as of yet no known date when the Senate will vote on this, although it will likely be later this year.
Why the PRO Act is bad for freelancers
What’s so bad about the PRO Act is the wording in it which negatively impacts independent workers, including freelancers. The problematic wording is contained in the antiquated ABC test portion of the bill, which was created in the 1930’s to protect factory workers.
The ABC Test says that in order to be considered a freelancer…
(A) the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under the contract for the performance of service and in fact;
(B) the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and
(C) the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.”
If the PRO Act is passed, anyone wishing to freelance must pass all three prongs of the ABC test. The A prong and the C prong are not a problem. What is a problem is the B prong: “the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employee.”
What the B prong means is that as an independent contractor or freelancer, you can’t work for any entity that’s in the same line of business as yourself. For example, writers can’t write for magazines or newspapers. Translators can’t work for translation services. Tutors can’t work for tutoring companies.
The PRO Act also will likely disproportionately affect women freelancers, minorities and freelancers with disabilities. These freelancers often have a harder time getting freelance jobs and building their freelance income. If they’re suddenly not allowed to freelance anymore, they’re likely to have an extremely hard time digging themselves out and rebuilding their lives.
How the ABC Test worked out for California freelancers
On January 1, 2020 California enacted a law called AB5, containing the exact same ABC test as the PRO Act. Hundreds of thousands of California freelancers immediately lost their jobs. Many others, such as this freelance writer, had to move out of California to continue their freelance careers elsewhere in the United States.
After the law went into effect, California legislators attempted to fix some of the damage done by adding over 100 exemptions to the law. These exemptions have helped many, but not all freelancers,
The state then also passed Proposition 22, which laid out special rules to try to repair some of the damage the law had done to Uber and Lyft drivers whom the original AB5 law was specifically intended to help. These band-aids did help some independent workers, including freelancers, but many more are still suffering.
In fact, if you have any doubt whatsoever about whether the PRO Act is good or bad for freelancers, you need look no further than California. You can read personal accounts of 655 California freelancers harmed by AB5 here. You’ll find a lot of news articles about how PRO Act harmed California freelancers here.
You can also get on Twitter and look up the hashtags #AB5Stories and #RepealAB5 for more insight into how AB5 has damaged freelancers in California.
What happened in California should stay in California.
Several other states have their own ABC tests. However, their versions of the test are far less restrictive than the California version and the PRO Act version, allowing freelancers to continue freelancing as usual.
If the PRO Act is made into law, freelancers around the United States are going to lose their freelance jobs, just like California freelancers. While California freelancers were able to move to other parts of the U.S., where are U.S. freelancers going to go?
The Pro Act and the Filibuster
You may have heard in the news lately that some politicians are attempting to eliminate the filibuster.
One of the reasons they are trying get rid of the filibuster is so they can push through the PRO Act and make it into law.
If the filibuster no longer exists, senators who oppose the PRO Act will not be able to filibuster it. Without the filibuster, the likelihood that PRO Act will become law greatly increases.
Every freelancer should unite against the PRO Act
Fortunately we don’t have to just sit back and just watch the PRO Act become law and our ability to freelance go up in smoke. We can fight back, and we can win. There’s actually a great website you can check out called Fight for Freelancers USA. It will give you all kinds of information dedicated to the fight against the PRO Act and how to win this fight.
A lot of freelancers still haven’t united against PRO Act. There are many reasons for this.
1.They haven’t heard about PRO Act yet. If you’re one of the freelancers who didn’t know about PRO Act until you read this, now you do. Spread the word!
2. They think PRO Act will go away on its own and never become law. Unfortunately, PRO Act is huge and pervasive. It’s not going to go away all on its own.
3. They think PRO Act will not impact their freelance career. In this era of uncertainty we’re living through, you really can’t realistically be confident that PRO Act won’t affect you and your freelance career. Who knows what will happen?
4. They are reluctant to speak against the PRO Act for fear of retribution. This is totally understandable. Especially on social media, people who don’t agree with what you’re saying can be very abusive, aggressive and threatening. If you’re don’t want to put yourself out there publicly as someone who’s against the PRO Act, you can contact your lawmakers privately and no one else will ever know. You’ll find out how to privately contact your lawmakers below.
5. They are standing behind their politicians. No matter the harm PRO Act will bring to themselves and all of the American freelance community, many freelancers are standing behind the politicians who are pushing it. PRO Act is not a partisan issue. But many freelancers are treating it as if it is.
Now is definitely not the right time to be toeing the party line.
We all need to think independently and not believe everything our favorite politicians are telling us. We need to really listen to what they say. Just because they’re in our political party doesn’t mean they’re doing the right thing at all.
More and more pro-freelancer organizations are also speaking out against the PRO Act.
Read what the American Society of Journalists and Authors says about PRO Act here.
Read what the American Translators Association says about the PRO Act here.
Read what the US Chamber of Commerce says about the PRO Act here.
All freelancers could be harmed by PRO Act if it becomes law. All freelancers really should stand together against it. The safe thing to do now is to be proactive. We need to take steps to protect ourselves from the harm PRO Act can inflict upon freelancers.
Let’s all unite to ask our senators to vote no to the PRO Act or to change the ABC test to another test.
How you can let your lawmakers know you oppose the PRO Act
There are many ways you can contact your lawmakers and let them know you’re opposed to the PRO Act.
Since the PRO Act bill is on its way to the United States Senate, the US senators for your state are the right people for you to contact. There is nothing wrong with contacting other politicians in addition, though.
Fortunately it is very easy to contact your lawmakers! You can do so privately via email, regular mail or phone. You can also let them know what you think publicly via Twitter or even on their Facebook pages.
How to contact your lawmakers privately
1.Call, email or send a letter.
Look up your states’ senators here. You’ll find their mailing address and phone number, as well as a contact form where you can contact them.
Wondering what you should say to them, though?
Freelance radio journalist Susan Valot has shared some awesome templates here that you can use to write letters or emails to your lawmakers. In that same file you’ll find instructions for those templates. You’ll also find a script you can use if you choose to call your lawmakers.
If you prefer to write your own letter or speak from your heart when you call, that will definitely work too. Tell your senators that you want them to vote no to PRO Act or change the ABC test to the IRS test, the Economic Reality Test, or another test which will not place restrictions on independent work. Be sure to tell them a little about yourself and how passage of the PRO Act would negatively impact you.
2. Fill out this form.
An easy way to contact lawmakers privately about PRO Act is to fill out this form. It takes literally 10 seconds. Your lawmakers will receive it and see you’re against the PRO Act. You might even receive a reply from them.
3. Sign this petition.
Another easy way to let your lawmakers know you oppose the PRO Act is to sign this petition.
How to contact your lawmakers on social media
Most, if not all, United States senators have social media accounts. Twitter is the best way to reach out to them publicly. If you don’t have and don’t want a Twitter account, you can reach them on Facebook.
When addressing your senators on Twitter, you can use PRO Act hashtags. Other people on Twitter can then find your tweets under those hashtags. They may even retweet them to show support for what you say. The most popular PRO Act hashtags are:
You can also search for your senators’ official Facebook pages. Then do a search to see if they’ve mentioned PRO Act or any related topic in any of their posts. Let them know in the comments why you oppose the PRO Act.
So contact your lawmakers. Get on Twitter and connect with other freelancers from around the country who are fighting this. Join the Fight for Freelancers USA Facebook group. Let your freelance friends, relatives and colleagues know about this. There is strength in numbers.
We can – and will – win the fight against PRO Act!
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Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years on and off of working online while traveling and living abroad.