JoBeth McDaniel, a California resident with the group Freelancers Against AB5, told me in an email that the law hurt a broad swath of independent contractors. She said she still hears fresh horror stories, representing just a very small portion of the blood bath out there. ” Ms. McDaniel is also a plaintiff in a litigation that contests AB5 on First Amendment grounds, filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, which fights for “the right to make an honest living free from unreasonable government interference. ”

AB5 Private Stories, a website run by Karen Anderson, a freelance editor, features dozens of Facebook testimonials against the ABC test as applied in California. On the site, I discovered several accounts by people who stated that they had lost work. Yet many other stories were from individuals who predicted that they would shed work or who turned down a few offers of employment because they didn’t want taxes deducted from their paychecks. Not quite a “blood bath. ”

According to Ms. McDaniel, most news reports about the ABC evaluation have focused on “unskilled workers” who, according to her, can easily leave their job if they are unhappy, while ignoring the impact on people like writers, licensed pharmacists, medical translators and court reporters. Her implication : White-collar freelancers should not be punished for the success they enjoyed before the ABC test came together. But my interviews over the years with heaps of Uber and Lyft drivers, health technicians, artists, technology workers and fellow journalists have shown me just how little separates the working conditions of blue- and white-collar freelancers.

O., a freelance software designer in the Bay Area (who asked that I use only his first initial for fear of losing work) told me that he’s had to moonlight for Uber and Lyft since 2014 to survive periodic downturns in tech. He supported AB5 but opposed Proposition 22, a subsequent ballot measure that allows Uber and Lyft to continue to treat their drivers as independent contractors. He backs the PRO Act because people require a union, he said.

The lasting anger over AB5 has tainted understanding of the PRO Act, which amends only the N.L.R.A., and obscured the reality of modern work. Opponents of the ABC test tend to overstate both the flexibility of the rigidity of W2 employment. In actuality, thousands of unionized actors, electricians, art handlers, sound technicians and health care workers already have short-term W2 tasks for numerous employers.

Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, a writer and art installer in New York, receives a W2 for work in museums and galleries, but is still a freelancer with a flexible schedule. As a writer, he is a member of the Freelance Solidarity Project, an organizing initiative for independent newspaper and magazine writers, editors, illustrators and photographers housed under the National Writers Union. I joined the project this past year, searching for something as close to a union as I could get without having the lawful right to one.

Some of us in the Freelance Solidarity Project are misclassified permalancers (permanent freelancers like Leigh was), while others have W2 day tasks ; many work for many outlets at once. We share information on contracts and pitching, and swap information on industry prices. The PRO Act would give us a key additional tool: the ability to collectively bargain with the sockets that depend on our labour.

The PRO Act eats away at the small-business-cooperation problem, Mr. Kaiser-Schatzlein explained. “Even if you’re a freelancer and you don’t want to unionize, you should at least have a group that advocates for your own rights. If you’re doing something and you get six figures, that’s nice, but you need to see the advantage of banding together to do that. ”

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