Rep. Kevin Kiley, R-Calif., says that California’s Assembly Bill 5 has “rendered countless independent professionals unable to earn a living” in the state. Now, the congressman says he’s working to prevent the controversial worker classification law from being applied nationally.
As part of a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on Wednesday, April 19, Kiley spoke out against his state’s law that makes it extremely difficult for leased-on truck drivers and various freelance workers to be considered independent contractors.
California passed AB5 into law in 2019.
While proponents say the law protects workers from being misclassified and missing out on employee benefits, many of the workers argue that they don’t want to become employees.
“Writers, interpreters, court reporters, musicians, language pathologists, photographers, forensic nurses, and people in literally hundreds of other industries were told they were no longer allowed to practice their profession and serve their clients as they’d been doing their whole careers,” Kiley said. “Instead, their only option was to find a single hiring entity to monopolize their services and make them a W-2 employee. For many, that was simply not possible.”
Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Mo., used truck driver Theldorine Sova as an example, saying that AB5 led her to move out of California so she could continue working as a leased-on owner-operator.
“She’s a community leader,” Burlison said at the hearing. “She’s someone any state would be proud to have as a constituent. I happen to be a part of the lucky community that got her because of the failed policies that California implemented. To me, the idea that she is not capable of making good decisions for her and her family is ridiculous. I think it’s demeaning to this woman.”
Kiley said millions of workers would be negatively affected if a version of AB5 was rolled out nationally.
“The Chamber of Progress published an economic analysis, which shows that implementing AB5’s rigid ABC Test as a national rule would cost the full-time or part-time jobs of between 3.2 and 3.8 million independent contractors,” Kiley said. “(That’s) equivalent to roughly half the jobs lost in the Great Recession.”
Kiley said the PRO Act, as well as the nomination of Julie Su as labor secretary, is part of the Biden administration’s effort to take the ABC Test nationwide.
Su, who previously served as California’s labor commission, was nominated earlier this year to lead the U.S. Department of Labor. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association wrote a letter to Senate offices on March 3 opposing Su’s nomination because of concerns surrounding AB5.
“Make no mistake, if Ms. Su were to advance the same policies that she championed in California, it would force hundreds of thousands of truckers to change their business model and put their livelihood in jeopardy,” OOIDA wrote.
Kiley has been a vocal opponent of Su, saying she is “the worst choice” the president could have made.
Su’s confirmation hearing in the Senate is scheduled for Thursday, April 20. LL