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In their own words: Six women explain why they’re against the PRO Act

Apr 13, 2021 by AFP

Farahn Morgan has a way with words.

Her talents took her from her rural hometown in southwestern Virginia to Washington, D.C., where the publicist quickly found success — and the sense of rootlessness that sometimes comes with a busy, full-time job.

“I lived in a kind of abstract haze, removed from the daily challenges even of my own family,” says Morgan. “I was living in an imagined utopia, bolstered by ever-increasing access to all the ‘right’ people and things.”

Then a family member fell ill. Standing outside a hospital room, answering emails, Morgan realized she needed a change. She needed to be closer to home.

“For me, choosing to work independently has been a reclaiming of sorts. I made a choice about association — about the kind of people, places, endeavors, and ideas I wanted to embrace and advance,” Morgan says, adding:

To me, the PRO Act feels like a personal attack. It must feel that way for so many independent contractors. By design, it forces us back into the corporate monoculture many of us have struggled to escape.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how constraining the typical employee-employer relationship is for women. They tell us independent work offers financial well-being and flexibility. They have told us they value a varying set of opportunities — and are grateful they can say no when something doesn’t feel right.

Here are five more women, in their own words, on why they’ve chosen to work for themselves:

Sharita Jennings, attorney:

“I’ve been able to expand my knowledge as an attorney because I’ve been able to take on projects with a variety of small business owners, as well as major corporations, who need me for short to long periods of time,” Jennings says.

Margarita Reyes, filmmaker:

“I created my own niche as an indie filmmaker producing features, short films, music videos, industrials, etc.,” Reyes explains. “Many times I’ve funded my own social justice driven projects. … My freelance film work supplemented my acting income so that I could continue to audition and work on films and TV. What other job will allow you to leave at a moment’s notice for auditions and bookings?”

Maggie Escalante, educator and graphic designer:

“There’s no other job like mine because I created it. … It’s working,” Escalante says. “That’s why I don’t want the legislation like California’s AB 5 in Virginia. … There are thousands of other contractors, some that I know, having difficulties already. … Allow us to have the security that we love.”

Paige Cerulli, writer

Paige Cerulli explains how independent work has helped build her career

“I’m never working with fewer than 10 clients at a time, so if a project suddenly ends, it’s not the end of the world … I’m able to really develop my skills and select clients and projects that are going to help me advance,” Cerulli says. 

She adds: “The PRO Act and AB 5 are constructed on the thought that businesses will simply convert freelance opportunities into jobs,” she says. “I think that belief is largely flawed, especially when you consider that some of my clients only have four or five hours of work per month for me.”

Read more about how the PRO Act could upend the career Cerulli built for herself through independent work.

 

Beth Anne Mumford, former strategic communications contractor

“For decades, independent contracting has allowed individuals the freedom and flexibility to build careers on their own terms, an opportunity that has been especially advantageous for women. As a working mother, I have personally benefited from independent work, which allowed me to raise my children while building my career.  

Read Mumford’s op-ed in Real Clear Markets explaining how independent contracting empowers women.

Mumford adds, “Many women prefer to be their own boss.”

Does the PRO Act threaten that choice? A recent article supportive of the PRO Act claimed the bill “is not intended to change the employment status of freelancers.” That story also took aim at the stories readers have found on this site.

Good intentions are not good enough, particularly since freelancers can see what happened in California.

As the nearly 19,000 people assembled at Freelancers Against AB 5 have attested, in reality that law, in effect since January 2020, had a chilling effect on independent work.

By enacting the ABC test to determine National Labor Relations Act protection, the PRO Act also would erode women’s choices about how they work.

“This legislation isn’t about workers’ rights,” Morgan says. “It’s designed to crush the creativity and individuality that is the hallmark of humanity, in service of the corporate, the automatic, and the same.”

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