Biden Wants to Take Away Your Side Gig
BY RON SHULTIS
Recently, President Biden’s Department of Labor announced a proposed regulation that will make it harder for Tenneeseans to make extra income and work for themselves by making it harder to work as an independent contractor. Sadly, this is an attempt to enact part of the federal “Pro Act” through an end-around the democratic process by executive regulation, a bill that would restrict worker freedom in numerous ways including trying to supersede Tennessee and all other states’ Right to Work laws.
The innovations of the gig economy have created opportunities like never before for people to make extra income and have made all of our lives easier and more convenient, especially during and since the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, one survey found that 74 percent of gig workers said that their gig work is “as important or more important” to their financial security since the pandemic. With decades-high inflation and higher costs of living, robbing people of the ability to make extra money is not only senseless but elitist, ignoring the plight of most Americans who are struggling to keep their heads above the water. But security is not the only reason many choose to work in the gig economy, as many choose to do gig-work full time due to the flexibility and control it offers.
And don’t be mistaken, side gigs have big-time impacts on our economy with freelancers and gig work contributing $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy. Here in Tennessee, one out of ten Nashvillians works in some kind of non-traditional employment arrangement either part-time or full-time, the 9th highest and the 7th fastest growing in the nation. Memphis isn’t too far behind, with people working in the gig economy 12 percent above the national average.
And how do we know this regulation will cost people their side gigs? Sadly, it’s been done before. Like most big government ideas, this proposed regulation is modeled after a law out of California, AB5. When AB5 was passed in 2019, thousands of people lost their income including freelance journalists, sign-language interpreters, and even nannies. The law even impacted the music industry, leading decades-old music festivals to close. Musicians had to fight to amend the law before it went into effect to prevent tens of thousands of musicians from losing their livelihoods even if they simply sang backup vocals at a venue for one night. Imagine how the vibrant energy and culture of honky-tonks on Broadway in Nashville or blues bars on Beale Street in Memphis would be devastated by such a move.
Simply put, this is big government getting in the way of worker freedom and the opportunities that innovations provide to us all. Not to mention, it would supersede laws made by Tennesseans for our own state by bureaucrats based in D.C. Government shouldn’t impose old frameworks on an ever-changing nature of work but should instead seek to protect the ways people make their living, whether it’s trying to make it big at the Blue Bird Cafe or simply trying to pay off debt driving for Instacart on the weekends. Otherwise, if you think the surge pricing on your Friday night Doordash order of tacos is high now, wait until the Biden administration gets its way.