When I started Vivacity Sportwear in San Diego in 2011, I sought to create a company to outfit women of all shapes and sizes in fashionable activewear to look, feel and perform beautifully every day. Small business is in my DNA. I was inspired by my parents, who built a successful manufacturing business in Orange County after immigrating to the United States from Colombia in the 1960s.
Vivacity Sportswear could not meet our customers’ needs without vital partnerships with independent contractors. As a small business, I rely on contractors to provide specialized services that meet the needs of my business while keeping my overhead at a manageable level. I have trusted relationships with fashion and graphic designers who carry out the creative and innovative vision for our designs, as well as freelance marketers who make sure our products reach our customers.
Right now, these partnerships are under assault thanks to a bill in Congress that seeks to completely blow up my business model and so many others by making it harder for individuals to work independently. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act — or PRO Act for short – is being pushed by union lobbyists and includes more than 30 controversial provisions, all of which would make it harder for small businesses like mine to survive.
The most concerning to me is a provision that seeks to turn California’s controversial Assembly Bill 5 with its “ABC test” for classifying workers as either employees or independent contractors into federal law. The ABC test severely limits opportunities for individuals to pursue independent work, and so far, its implementation here in California has been a disaster. The test has been so difficult to implement that our state legislature has been forced to draft legislation to help. Lawmakers have amended and altered the bill numerous times to accommodate the problems it keeps presenting. So why does Congress want to make this misguided test the law of the land?
Members of Congress frequently speak about how important flexibility is to our workforce, but supporting the PRO Act would make it harder for people to find flexible work. For example, one of my contract designers also teaches fashion design at a local school. Under the PRO Act, she may not be able to take on contract design work while teaching. She enjoys choosing her hours, determining where or how to work, and the control she has over her own working conditions. The truth is that independent work provides a level of flexibility and autonomy that being an employee simply cannot. As I see it, the PRO Act would punish good, hardworking people like my designer under the guise of worker protection.
The consequences of the independent worker provision in the PRO Act reaches far beyond my trusted team. Those who leverage ridesharing platforms like Uber and Lyft could be forced out of flexible work if this legislation becomes law. It would also threaten much of the on-demand economy, which is dependent on linking people who want to work with people who want their services at any given time.
Simply put, the PRO Act is bad for small businesses, like mine and disastrous for independent contractors themselves. Congress should not be in the job of deciding what’s best for workers, who want to be able to choose for themselves. Congress is voting on the PRO Act soon, and I urge my member of the House, Rep. Scott Peters, to oppose this extreme proposal.
Vivian Sayward is the founder of Vivacity Sportswear in San Diego.