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No, the PRO Act doesn’t threaten freelancers and contractors

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 25, 2021) — A recent poll found that when the provisions of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act are described to voters, there is strong support (51-36) for reforming Senate rules so that a simple majority could pass it.

That might explain why corporate interests opposed to restoring Americans’ freedom to unionize are resorting to fearmongering and misinformation. They are criticizing the PRO Act by falsely saying it threatens the independence of freelancers and independent contractors.

The AFL-CIO explains the truth that PRO Act does not threaten these work arrangements and will not destroy the gig economy in this Q&A:

I hear that the PRO Act is just like California’s A.B. 5 and would cause freelance journalists and creative professionals to lose work. Is this true?

No. The only way the PRO Act affects freelance journalists and creative professionals is allowing them to join a union and collectively bargain. If they don’t want to organize, they don’t have to. The PRO Act doesn’t stop anyone from doing freelance work, whether they organize or not.

What is the ABC test?

It’s called the ABC test because it’s a set of three criteria, laid out as Section A, Section B and Section C.

The three criteria are:

  1. Is the worker independent from the business’ control?
  2. Is the worker doing work the business doesn’t normally do?
  3. Is the worker a separate business entity from the employer?

Why does the PRO Act have the ABC test?

In the PRO Act, the ABC test is used to determine who qualifies for protection under federal law when they choose to organize a union or bargain collectively. If someone meets all three criteria, they’re protected under federal law. It is a critical part of the bill because employers often try to stop their workers from organizing by falsely claiming the workers are independent contractors. The ABC test would protect the rights of those workers.

So is it the same as California’s A.B. 5?

No. A.B. 5 in California redefines who is considered an employee under a broad range of state employment laws. The PRO Act does not touch any of those laws. The PRO Act only affects the federal law that governs private sector unions.

I’m a freelancer. Will the PRO Act force my clients to hire me as a W-2 employee?

No. The PRO Act does not affect any of the laws that typically determine whether someone is hired as a W-2 employee. It doesn’t affect tax law, minimum wage, overtime, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, etc.

Does the PRO Act outlaw independent contracting or gig work? Does it make freelancing illegal?

No. Nothing in the PRO Act outlaws any kind of work arrangement.

For more information, see the Economic Policy Institute brief: Three reasons why the PRO Act won’t destroy freelancing or the gig economy.


ALSO at The Stand:

Six ways the PRO Act restores workers’ bargaining power (March 18)

Historic labor law reform passes U.S. House of Representatives (March 10)


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