By: Joseph Murgida
Vox Media recently published an article advocating for the ABC test to ensure “fairer conditions” for gig workers that are classified as independent contractors. In its so-called “analysis,” Vox ignores that the ABC test remains broadly unpopular among California’s independent contractors, and that a national ABC test would threaten the jobs of more than 59 million Americans that engage in freelance work.
Freelancers offer vibrancy to the American economy, and the ability to work as an independent contractor provides Americans with the flexibility that does not come with a traditional employment relationship. Think of a single mom earning a living by selling homemade goods on Etsy, or an Uber or Lyft driver using extra cash he earns to start a business of his own. These are real Americans chasing their dreams without the need to have a boss.
The ABC test under AB5 forced Californian companies to reclassify freelancers as employees, effectively eliminating the possibility of a freelancer classification. Under the ABC test, businesses must prove that a contractor is doing duties “outside the usual course of work of the hiring entity” and that “the worker customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.” This significantly limits the ability of businesses to retain contractors who may operate within the scope of work sometimes performed by employees in similar circumstances. It’s an unnecessary distinction that prohibits most businesses from working with independent contractors.
The ABC test forced the mass reclassification of California’s independent contractors, forcing countless residents to flee the state to pay their bills and chase their dreams. More than 90 percent of California independent contractors opposed the ABC test reclassification before it was signed into law. ATR has complied 655 personal testimonials from independent contractors who details the ways that AB5 has hurt them, which you can view here.
In fact, the ABC test was so unpopular that Californian voters passed Proposition 22 by over a 17-point margin which allowed ride-sharing and delivery drivers to continue working as independent contractors. Recent survey data from Californian drivers indicates their broad support for Proposition 22. 3 out 4 drivers polled said that they believe that people from other states would benefit if Proposition 22 were passed there and 76% of drivers polled said that Proposition 22 personally benefits them. In comparison to the ABC test, 84% of drivers believe that the Proposition 22 was a superior solution to reclassifying independent contractors as employees. Instead of acknowledging this data, Vox made broad-sweeping allegations regarding the worries and concerns of workers regarding Proposition 22 without directly engaging any of the data that poked holes in their assertions.
Vox also ignored the devastating impact of a national ABC test on American small businesses. 73% of small business owners polled feel that working with freelancers was critical to surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, 45% of small businesses felt that the PRO Act, a federal law that includes nationalizing the “ABC” test, would force them to close their doors forever.
Ironically, the ABC test crushed some former Vox Media workers. About 200 freelancers from Vox Media in California lost their jobs in the month prior to AB5 going into effect. A cruel irony exists when an organization publishes an article that frames the ABC Standard as a “huge victory for workers” despite firing their workers as a direct result of that law.
The ABC test was such a disaster for California that voters chose to exempt rideshare drivers from its onerous requirements. Similarly, a national ABC test would be a disaster for small businesses and freelancers alike. As our economy attempts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing we need is to limit opportunities for American workers to earn a living.