If Biden Truly Wanted To Create Jobs, He Wouldn't Support the PRO Act

Destroying the ability of freelancers to make a living is union protectionism, not economic opportunity.


President Joe Biden's hour-long paean to massive government spending Wednesday evening deliberately focused on job creation. He insisted that his American Jobs Plan will "create millions of good paying jobs—jobs Americans can raise their families on."

But then in practically the next breath, Biden called on Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and send it to his desk. The PRO Act will, if passed, destroy hundreds of thousands of careers across the country.

When Biden and the bill's supporters talk about the PRO Act, they only mention that it helps protect the right for workers to attempt to unionize. But that's not all the PRO Act does. The PRO Act does tremendous harm to the workforce by making it hard—nearly impossible—for many freelance workers to continue working independently.

This isn't speculation. We know what this law bill will do to freelancers because it's based on A.B. 5, legislation passed in California in 2019 that codified extremely restrictive rules controlling who was allowed to work as an independent contractor. The law was written deliberately to attack the gig economy and companies like Uber and Lyft, which operate on a business model in which drivers are classified as independent contractors. This means they can set their own hours and control their work schedules, but also means they don't qualify for certain benefits. And it also makes it much harder for union supporters to organize them.

But A.B. 5 was written so broadly that in practice it affected thousands of different jobs, threatening hairdressers, freelance journalists, real estate agents, translators, musicians, and many, many others. Ultimately, the bill's own creator had to pass legislation last year that carved out a bunch of occupational exemptions. The ride-sharing and delivery drivers were left in, but then California voters in November supported a ballot initiative that exempted them as well.

A.B. 5 is in tatters but is still officially on the books. A federal ruling had exempted truck drivers from A.B. 5, accepting the argument that it was preempted by federal transportation law. But on Wednesday, a panel of three judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed the lower court's order, meaning that independent truckers may soon be affected by the law, hampering their ability to find work unless a company takes them on as employees.

Circuit Judge Mark J. Bennett was the sole dissenter, noting that "[California Trucking Association's] members will now suffer irreparable injury."

Embedded within the PRO Act is text to take A.B. 5 nationwide, despite California voters' rejection of the measure. It sets the exact same rules restricting who is permitted to be classified as an independent contractor, regardless of what the worker actually wants. This, to be clear, is completely intentional. A.B. 5 proponent Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D–San Diego) dismissed the concerns of freelancers, saying, "These were never good jobs." It was very clearly her goal to dismantle and destroy the ability for workers to decide to make careers out of being independent contractors.

Biden can say that he wants to create new jobs all he likes, but the only jobs that the PRO Act actually cares about are union jobs. The bill is actively hostile to jobs that aren't unionized. That's a recipe for neither economic growth nor individual freedom.

UPDATE: Not long after this piece was posted, Reuters reported that Biden's Labor Secretary Marty Walsh believes gig economy workers "should be classified as workers."

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  1. You’d think that having literal bat shit crazy Californians rejecting this thing at the ballot box would be enough to get politicians to not try this on a national stage.

  2. Biden is creating jobs exactly how we Koch / Reason libertarians want him to — by reversing Drumpf’s racist practice of “border enforcement.” It is well known that Mexicans and other Central and South Americans will do the jobs US-born workers simply won’t. Or at least, immigrants will do them for wages more favorable to billionaire employers like our benefactor Charles Koch.


  3. the every day milquetoast whining from you guys is tedious. whole fucking world knew what was coming down the pike w/JB

    1. Sad, but true.

  4. If Biden wanted to create jobs, he’d:
    – resume construction of XL gas pipeline,
    – resume construction of the wall on the Mexican border,
    – allow/promote climate friendly natural gas fracking on federal land,
    – end monthly federal payments to Americans so they seek jobs,
    – and all federal restrictions on social distancing and mask wearing (as 2/3rds of Americans are now immune), which prevent/restrain commerce and the creation of new jobs,
    – tell left wing Democrat governors and mayors to end their economically disastrous lockdowns of businesses and schools, and to end their social distancing and mask mandates.

    In fact, Biden’s proposed policies won’t create new high paying jobs in America (but they will in China and Iran, just as occurred when he was VP for eight years).

    His deceitful speech last night just tried to dupe the same useful idiots (who voted for Biden) into believing that Biden is creating lots of new high paying jobs (and ending global warming, poverty and cancer as well).

    1. Raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, which Biden also urged Congress to enact last night, would eliminate millions of jobs (and thousands of small businesses).

      So while Biden claims he’ll increase jobs, anyone who has ever taken basic economics (or who has an IQ of 80) knows that raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour would be disastrous for millions of young and unskilled workers who would lose their jobs.

      1. Also, according to Mexican government data, the average Mexican has completed 7.2 years of education. Coupled with a lack of English, what sort of work will the immigrants get that pays $15 a hour?

    2. The Clintons did the same thing. Offshore jobs, break up unions, punish software engineering freelancers with a tax.

  5. The progressives want a constant unemployed class fully dependant on the government stealing money from productive people and transferring the money to them. The saying “don’t attribute malice what can be explained by stupidity” gets used alot, and libritarians need to stop arguing as if progressives are good people who want a better world. They want a world where everyone but them suffers for their sacred cows.
    Make the case that in a free society a person should be able to sell a good or service free from any government mandate or permission. People figuring out the best way to serve one another, and being secure in the fruits of their labor is how society got to be so rich. There is absolutly no need for any government act to promote jobs, instead the government should not promote lazyness, regulatory capture, or government interference.

  6. One thing I find odd about opposition to the “gig economy” by self-proclaimed socialists is that much of it conforms perfectly to the classical definition of socialism: Worker ownership and control of the means of production.

    An Uber driver, for example owns the means of production (the car), and has complete control of when, where, and how often he or she chooses to work. There’s no “boss.” Uber merely serves as an intermediary for connecting that driver with clients, in exchange for Uber setting reliably customer-attracting prices (which it’s in a better data-driven position to determine) and taking a cut.

    The only people who don’t benefit from the “gig economy” are tax collectors and union bosses who are quite comfortable working in a crony capitalist environment where they get over whether “the workers” do or not.

    1. Reality check.
      Socialism is not really ‘ownership of the means of production by the workers’. It is ownership and CONTROL of the means of production by the statists in the name of the workers. And oh by the way, there are no slackers on welfare in a socialist state. Everyone works damn hard at the job they are assigned. Period.

      1. We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us

  7. So you now understand that: Biden is a puppet, the democrat administration doesn’t care about jobs, they just want to give money to special interests who support them, they are the most racist group of people to exist since FDR, and for fucks sake don’t vote for them again.

  8. I guess my gardener, a native-American, who works for a landscaping company, will just have to stay poor and give up hope of owning his own landscape business since I won’t be able to hire him. (He makes a whole lot more per hour caring for my lawn, and a couple of neighbor’s lawns, than his boss pays him.)

    Or, I could just pay him anyway. In cash. No records. Oh, wait, I already am.

    Hooray for black markets!

    1. Red markets?

    2. Now go read the article about the IRS snooping into your bank transactions and venmo payments.

      Once they complete their destruction of the economy, that’s how they’re going to handle the gray markets.

  9. The fascists do not want any kind of individualism at all, especially one that generates revenue. How can the government control people through big corporations if not everyone works for a big corporation?

  10. Well looks like Reason writers are unanimous. Biden is a libertarian nightmare. But Trump was a big poopyhead so…

    1. I missed where Reason endorsed Biden for president. Or do you mean that any criticism of Trump counts as endorsement of Biden?

  11. Joe Biden IS a shovel ready job. For one undertaker.

  12. Hint: Biden doesn’t want to create jobs.

  13. Democrats operate government in a manner that supports their clients. Their Number One client is Organized Labor.
    The Democrats have openly wanted to revoke Taft-Hartley and Landrum-Griffin since I was in junior high school (and I’m 68). The pressure to do so from corrupt felons like Rich Trumka has increased exponentially in recent years, since free choice (e.g., right to work in Michigan!) has reduced their ability to hold employees’ jobs for ransom. The unions are in it for the revenue – and as payment to the Democratic Party they serve as a conduit for forced dues to the Democratic Machine.
    Our only remaining hope is the majority on the Supreme Court – at least until Harris, Schumer, and Pelosi pack the court with their partisans.

  14. We need more jobs if he wants to create jobs ,actions is louder than voice let him create

    We are tired of this so calll fake promide ,tell left wing Democrat governors and mayors to end their economically disastrous lockdowns ,of businesses and schools, and to end their social distancing and mask mandates.that just it

  15. New govt jobs are a major problem all over the world here in Pakistan 40% job rate has been down but the military announced MES jobs 2021.

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