Kitchen Table Economics

PRO Act Series: Legislation Would Strip Workers of Autonomy and Financial Independence

Businesses that employ a couple dozen staff members—such as restaurants—are the poster children of the small business community. But freelancer opportunities provide Americans with another avenue to be their own boss. Freelance journalists, handymen, musicians, or more recently, gig economy workers, are able to seek financial independence while choosing when, where, and how much to work.

Gig economy workers include your ride-share drivers or food delivery people that offer their services through an app-based platform. Think Uber, Lyft, or Grubhub.

Under proposed federal legislation called the Protecting the Right to Organize (ACT), many of these opportunities would simply disappear or become more rigid. Following in the footsteps of a failed California policy, the PRO Act would force gig economy companies to reclassify those currently considered independent contractors as full-time employees. As a result, workers would be stripped of the autonomy they currently enjoy.

Proponents of the PRO Act argue they want to provide gig workers with the stereotypical benefits associated with being a full-time employee. But time and time again, a majority of gig workers say the advantages of being a freelancer outweigh the benefits of being an employee. That’s why California residents voted to walk back a similar statewide statute via ballot initiative in 2020. Perhaps PRO Act supporters should pay more attention to the group of people they are supposedly trying to help.

The PRO Act is full of reforms that will curtail small business growth and suppress worker freedom. Dismantling the very core of the gig economy that has provided Americans with so much opportunity—especially during the pandemic—should be a nonstarter.