Tipping the scales in favor of big labor unions instead of hardworking families only serves to wreak havoc on innovation and devastate the backbone of our economy; the last two years under President Joe Biden have proved it. My Employee Rights Act breaks away from the failed policies of the past, modernizes our country’s outdated labor laws and puts employees and families first.
The complexity of our modern economy demands a forward-thinking approach that prioritizes worker freedom. When I first introduced this legislation in 2011, I was focused on protecting traditional workers from overbearing union bosses and overregulation from Washington bureaucrats. However, the rise of the gig economy — ranging from delivery platforms such as DoorDash and Uber Eats to accommodation services such as Airbnb — means we need to think creatively about ways to protect gig workers, franchisees, independent contractors and the millions of Americans seeking flexible work options.
Far too many on the left have seen this exciting innovation as an opportunity to impose more regulations and bigger government, and put more power in the hands of union bosses. In 2020, California enacted sweeping new restrictions on independent contractors such as app-based workers. Even liberal California voters ultimately rejected the measure.
Yet President Biden seems intent on taking California’s failed proposals national, as made clear by his nomination of Julie Su — the architect of California’s anti-independent-contractor law — to serve as the next Secretary of Labor. Last year, the Biden administration took a page out of California’s playbook when the Labor Department published a proposal to curtail the scope of independent contractors, limiting the opportunities for hardworking Americans to participate in the gig economy. Democrats both in the White House and in Congress want to codify that attack on our independent contractors and workers by pushing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would wipe out right-to-work protections in 27 states.
Under this administration, top-down policies have concentrated bargaining power in the hands of the big labor unions. They have subjected American workers and small businesses to a barrage of union harassment and disrupted opportunities for our families. Employees should be free to negotiate their own salaries and benefits directly with employers for contracts that meet their own needs, and have the freedom to work without being held back by the political interests of a select few.
The Employee Rights Act would give them just that by modernizing our economy to protect contractors, franchisees, entrepreneurs and anyone seeking flexible work options. My bill makes it easier, not harder, for workers to become small business owners. It protects employee privacy and gives workers more control over their personal information. It requires unions to get explicit permission from members before spending their dues for political purposes. And it reinforces commonsense, democratic ideals by enshrining the right to a private vote on who represents workers on the job.
Before I walked the halls of Congress, I owned a small business in Charleston. Like millions of small business owners, running my own business gave me my first taste of the American dream. It gave me the opportunity to bear witness to the power of a good-paying job, it taught me the difference between earning a profit and building generational wealth, and it meant signing the front of checks, not just the back. My bill gives more Americans the opportunity to realize the dream of starting their own business.
I came to the Senate to bring hope and opportunity to every American family. To do that, we must create a foundation that puts power back in the hands of workers and builds a stronger economy. My bill looks to the future, making it easier for every American to take part in our economy and build toward a better, brighter tomorrow.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott is a Republican from South Carolina.