Director of Policy for Beacon Impact, Ron Shultis Discusses Why the PROAct Is Bad

Director of Policy for Beacon Impact, Ron Shultis Discusses Why the PROAct Is Bad

 

Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed the Director of Policy for Beacon Impact Ron Shultis to the newsmakers line to weigh in on the PRO Act bill, occupational licensing, and the pushback it’s receiving from Rep. Diana Harshbarger of Tennessee with her new bill.

Leahy: We are joined now on the newsmaker line by Ron Shultis Director of Policy for Beacon Impact. Welcome, Ron.

Shultis: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Leahy: Tell us what’s the difference between Beacon Impact and the Beacon Center of Tennessee?

Shultis: Sure. Beacon Impact is our sister advocacy arm of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, which is the state free-market think tank here located in Nashville. Under Beacon Impact is where we do all of our advocacy on bills and trying to support free-market legislation.

Leahy: I think that the Beacon Center is a 501 (c) (3) and Beacon Impact is a 501 (c) (4)?

Shultis: That is correct.

Leahy: One of the bills that you’re talking about is the PRO Act. Tell us what it is and tell us why it’s bad.

Shultis: Sure. So this is one of the many terrible bills going through Congress right now. It’s already past the House. It’s sitting in the Senate. Essentially what it does is it will totally set back our economy in the midst of while we’re having shortages and all kinds of things by doing a couple of items that totally tip the balance in favor of large labor unions.

The first thing that it does is it abolishes the state right to work laws, which essentially would mean if you don’t want to join the union, you would be forced to pay union dues or you could be fired. Currently, in a right-to-work state like Tennessee, it’s your choice whether or not you choose to join the union or not and pay union dues.

So it protects the worker on both ends. If this were to pass, that would no longer be the case. If you chose not to join a union, you would have to force the pay dues whether you choose to or not, or you could be fired. Another thing it could do is totally sit back our gig economy by implementing California is what’s called their ABC Test, which makes it much harder for somebody to work as a gig worker.

Which if you think about, for example, last year during all the lockdowns and shutdowns when so many people had to work as, for example, an Instacart delivering groceries or Uber, that becomes much more difficult. And what that does is it nationalizes what California did, which is obviously never a good thing with their ABC Test. And that’s just a couple of things that it does.

Leahy: That bill is working so well for California. Not. What a disaster that is.

Shultis: Right. Exactly. And when California passed it, you can go back and look into some of the liberal media articles in 2019 about all these writers for liberal publications and Vox complaining and realizing that then they were fired because they were freelance writers.

And then once that passed while living in California, they had to become an employee. And then that place where they would contract with had to let them go.

So they had to add all kinds of exemptions for freelance writers, DJs for weddings, and all that because so many people rose up in arms against it. But the national version, the PRO Act, doesn’t have those extensions. So it’s even worse than what California did.

Leahy: Now here we have a newly elected state representative U.S. Representative named Representative Harshbarger. And she introduced a bill that basically is designed to push back against this kind of stuff. Tell us about that bill.

Shultis: That’s right. She introduced a bill that we’re supportive of. And what it does there are these new grants that the federal government created and states can apply for these grants. But the problem is that sometimes the federal government incentivizes states to adopt bad occupational licensing, which is essentially the government’s permission to do a job.

Well, if you want to get these grants, then you may have to create a new occupational license, which makes it harder for a Tennessean to get that job, which is kind of the exact opposite of the point of these grants. And so what she did is introduced a bill called the Freedom to Work Act, which directs the federal government to review its policies around the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act grants and say, are we incentivizing states to adopt these unnecessary licenses and repeal those rules and incentives in the system?

And then also, it requires a report to Congress to look for better ways to do so. And when states apply for these funds, they would have to show, how their state like here in Tennessee and how we are working to remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to get a job.

For example, here in Tennessee, we require a government license to do over 100 low-income occupations. In recent years, we’ve gotten rid of some. We used to require a license to shampoo hair, something most of us do every day. It used to require 300 hours of schooling to learn how to shampoo hair as an example.

And so what we could do is show how we remove those barriers, making it easier for people to get to work or get a job, start a business, and qualify for those funds.

Now in a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, that bill introduced by Representative Harshberger from the First Congressional District of Tennessee. That bill’s going to go nowhere, isn’t it?

Shultis: You would think so. But hopefully, this has one issue around occupational licensing that has gotten some bipartisan support. For example, both the Obama administration and the Trump administration, through the Department of Commerce, have told the state to look at these and peel back some of these requirements.

So hopefully that this is something that both our Democrat House and Senate will take a look at as something that can be, yey, these funds are supposed to make it easier for people to get jobs and how the federal government incentivizing states to make it harder. So hopefully this is something that we’ll get.

Leahy: But, you know, I doubt that there’s a single Democrat co-sponsor of this bill is there?

Shultis: Not that I’m aware of it.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IWF’s Senior Policy Analyst Patrice Onwuka Outlines Biden’s Efforts to Unionize Independent Contractors and Gig Workers

IWF’s Senior Policy Analyst Patrice Onwuka Outlines Biden’s Efforts to Unionize Independent Contractors and Gig Workers

 

Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed the Independent Women’s Forum Senior Policy Analyst Patrice Onwuka to the newsmakers line to explains the consequences of the Biden administration’s PRO Act that would ultimately destroy independent contractors and gig workers.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line by a good friend, Patrice Onwuka with the Independent Women’s Forum. Patrice, there you go again, (Onwuka chuckles) using logic to dispute what the Biden administration is doing. You have a piece about the gig economy and how Biden wants to ruin that.

Onwuka: I do. Actually, I’ve been writing quite a lot about what’s happening. We’ve got 57 million Americans who are employed on their own terms. They are freelancers. They are independent contractors. Maybe they’ve left an industry but have a ton of knowledge, and they contract their services and their work out to different companies.

Well, the Biden administration has a problem with that. They don’t like independent contractors because they cannot unionize those workers. Those workers are not employees and they don’t want to be employees. They want the flexibility to create their own schedules.

They want to have their own client roster. They want to carve out the work that is important to them. Unfortunately, the Bite administration is doing everything they can through the regulatory process as well as through the legislative process, to make it difficult to continue to be an independent contractor across the country.

Leahy: Well, it works so well in California, though. (Laughter)

Onwuka: All the best ideas come out of California right? (Chuckles) Wrong. What happened is California passed the bill called AB5 which changed the standard to determine whether a worker as an employee or an independent contractor.

Overnight we had stories of translators, florists, and small business owners saying they lost income by upwards of 30 to 50 percent. All of their clients dropped them because they were worried about this new law that made it difficult for someone to be an independent contractor and to be classified that way.

The way the law works is that you would have to hire that person as a full employee, give them all the benefits, all of the overtime pay, or the minimum wage pay. And that’s an increase in cost for businesses. There’s a reason why businesses choose independent contracting rather than employees.

And so lots of California workers were hit terribly. They lost a lot of income and contracts. And this is even before the pandemic. And of course, the pandemic just made things worse. So obviously, the Biden administration would want to take a bad model and make it nationwide.

And that is what’s going on. You’ve got a federal bill called the PRO Act that could be passed that would make this federal law. And we see the Department of Labor also instituting some regulatory changes in a similar vein.

Leahy: Who in the Biden administration or the Bike maladministration, as I call it, is pushing this stupid idea?

Onwuka: The Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh. He is a huge union guy. He spent decades and unions back in Massachusetts. I’m very familiar with him. I grew up there and he is parroting everything President Biden is saying in wanting to push forward these changes.

The Department of Labor, as I mentioned, it upended a Trump our rule that was actually really good for independent contractors. And so the Biden administration is saying, no. They’re working with Congress to push forward on this agenda. Michael, let me just underscore what’s going on here.

There are serious politics driving this. Unions are behind this push. They pretty much wrote the legislation in California. And they are now pushing for the PRO Act at the federal level because it would expand the number of union workers.

It would take away our rights to choose whether or not we want to pay union dues. We call that right to work. And it would make it very difficult to be an independent contractor. And just so that folks know, independent contractors are not just building your houses.

These are small business owners across the country and people who translate from Spanish to English in courtrooms for example. People who are advertisers and maybe their graphic designers. They play mall Santas at Christmas time.

At IWF, we have talked to these workers in California, regular folks who suddenly saw their livelihood’s cut because of bad policy at the state level. Imagine what that would do across the country.

Leahy: What’s the likelihood that this very bad, very stupid bill will pass in the House? It’s passed the House, hasn’t it? It’s in the Senate now?

Onwuka: Yes, it passed the House by a very close vote. Unfortunately, a few conservatives did support it.

Leahy: Who supported it?

Onwuka: I don’t have the list in front of me.

Leahy: But there were some Republicans that voted for this?

Onwuka: There were a few union-friendly states.

Leahy: Oh, my goodness.

Onwuka: And then in the Senate, we are leaning on just a couple of handful of senators. Senator Sinema and as well as Manchin of West Virginia. I believe he might have come out in support of it.

Leahy: Well, he’s a big union guy, though, right? He’s a big union guy.

Onwuka: Yes.

Leahy: Typically the usual suspects to stop the idiocy of the Democrats are Senator Sinema from Arizona and Senator Manchin from West Virginia. On this one, Manchin is all unioned up. So he’s not going to do it. But Sinema might.

Onwuka: Mike Kelly I believe of Arizona is well, could also be one of those is voting.

Leahy: Because he’s up for reelection for a full six-year term in 2022. That is very, very interesting. Well, for self-protection, (Onwuka laughs) if this thing passes first, will there be litigation to stop it immediately?

Onwuka: Absolutely. I absolutely think so. I think there are some public interest law firms that are thinking through legal strategies right now to challenge the law. I think what we saw in California was also a valid initiative that was funded by a lot of the gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft.

They have a very big dog in this fight. Not surprising because all those drivers are independent contractors. The people who deliver your Uber Eats are independent contractors. So you’ve got the gig economy. I think they would be mobilized in a legal fight as well.

Leahy: In California did that initiative make it on the ballot or is it in the process?

Onwuka: It did and it passed by over a margin of 60 percent. Voters said, no, we do not want these gig workers to be classified as employees. That was a win for the gig workers.

Leahy: When did that happen? And where does the law stand there now in California?

Onwuka: It happened in November. Last November it was on the ballot. It was a great win there. And so the law still stands. What happened is that the law became so sweeping and it was meant just to hit the Ubers in the list.

But it was written so broadly that every single occupation, you’re talking about hundreds of occupations and millions of workers in California got swept up. Some different groups are able to get exemptions from the law.

And then another law was passed with hundreds of more exemptions. But there are still many people in California who still are under the impact of AB5.

Leahy: Why didn’t that referendum throw that law out?

Onwuka: It was narrowly written to focus specifically on the gig economy. It wasn’t just broad for everyone. At IWF we liked the spirit of the ballot initiative but we also were worried about all of those other people who were not exempted.

And you know what, Michael? You shouldn’t have to use money to lobby to get some sort of exemption. If the law was smart on its own, if it was good policy, you wouldn’t need an exemption.

Leahy: I totally agree with that.

Onwuka: From a principled standpoint, we need to be fighting for more opportunity, more work, and more flexible work for the moms, for the dads, and for the people taking care of aging parents who really want that flexible environment.

Leahy: You obviously will never get a job in the Biden administration, Patrice, because you have common sense!

Onwuka: Well, I don’t want to be there. And yes, I’ve got common sense. And that’s what we’re pushing for. Just common sense solutions for what’s going on in the workforce.

Leahy: If this passes, there will be massive resistance to it around the country I would think. Don’t you?

Onwuka: There would be. It’s scary to wait until after the law passes to find out what’s in it. We saw what happened with Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act.

Leahy: You’ve got to pass it to learn what’s in it. Pelosi’s famous words.

Listen to the second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.