A female independent contractor and a female small business owner criticized congressional Democrats for supporting a radical labor reform they said would harm female business owners across the nation.
The pair ripped into the PRO Act, a massive labor overhaul that congressional Democrats are planning to vote on this week. The bill, based on California's AB5 law, would restructure U.S. labor regulations to significantly weaken right-to-work laws passed by more than half of the states in the country, and would also limit the ability of individuals to work as independent contractors. Jennifer O'Connell, a freelance writer and yoga instructor, said the California law hurts the people it is supposed to help, saying that it "pretty much eliminated most of my professional life and income."
"As a woman-owned small business, the government is seeking once again to destroy my professional life, a life that I've spent decades building and performing without any government help," O'Connell said. "How Neanderthal is Joe Biden's thinking, or this administration's thinking, to want to outlaw a woman's ability to work?"
House Democrats passed a version of the act in February 2020, but without control of the Senate, the bill did not get any further. President Joe Biden pledged to sign the PRO Act into law on the campaign trail, and the White House issued a statement Tuesday encouraging House Democrats to pass the AFL-CIO-backed bill.
"All of us deserve to enjoy America's promise in full—and our nation's leaders have a responsibility to deliver it. That starts with rebuilding unions," Biden said.
Monica Wyman, who owns a flower shop in California, said the PRO Act will have a disparate impact on women who want to balance work with other priorities, such as raising a family. She talked about having to take time off from work to battle breast cancer and how the passage of AB5 upended the labor scene when she returned.
"I came back from that break only to face AB5 here in California, which basically took away the opportunity for me to continue to hire other workers and to work on my own schedule, around my doctors' appointments, to schedule events and weddings that I could do when I was feeling well, and to have the help I needed," Wyman said. "AB5 has really stripped us of this opportunity to do what we need to do, but still continue to work and contribute to society, to our families, and it's been a challenge."
North Carolina congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R.) joined O'Connell and Wyman on the Monday call conducted by the Independent Women's Voice with reporters. She echoed the criticisms presented by the two businesswomen and said congressional Democrats are hypocrites for claiming to support workers while pushing damaging legislation.
"In January, women's workforce participation rate hit a 33-year low," Foxx said. "At a time when employers and workers are forced to tighten their purse strings, it is unconscionable that Democrats would consider a bill that would take millions from workers' paychecks, cost employers an estimated $47 billion in new annual costs, infringe on workers' First Amendment rights, and put small businesses at further risk of closing their doors."
While the PRO Act is expected to narrowly pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, its fate in the Senate will be determined by whether Senate Democrats abolish the filibuster to allow the act to pass with a simple majority of votes.