The attack on our self-employed and independent contractors

Just five short weeks into the legislative session, a number of bills detrimental to independent contractors and the self-employed were introduced in the Washington State Legislature.  Many of these bills would effectively make the practice of operating as an independent contractor functionally obsolete and place needless burdens on small businesses struggling to survive and prosper.  

Many individuals boldly choose self-employment and are entrepreneurs who are simply pursuing their dreams. These pioneers want to forge their own future and require the freedom and flexibility of being self-employed to find an appropriate work-life balance while maximizing their economic potential.

Supporters of these job-killing measures offer the illusion of protecting people from the questionable motives of “corporate America.” Have our independent contractors asked for this help? No.  These individuals have chosen to operate their own business as a sole proprietor or an independent contractor and do not require government to protect them from themselves. This is a classic example of an overreaching and unnecessary government solution in search of a problem. These self-reliant individuals take the initiative to pursue the American Dream and just ask for the freedom and opportunity to build their own prosperity and success as they see it. 

Controversial Senate Bill 5326 received extensive media attention around the state as more than 1,000 hairdressers and stylists flooded the Capitol Campus to testify against the measure. Those in the hairdressing and stylist industry deserve our praise for quickly organizing an incredible grassroots effort and coming to Olympia to oppose this toxic job-killing legislation. The sponsor of Senate Bill 5326, Sen. Karen Keiser, has since declared the bill dead.

However, Keiser's bill is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to placing obstacles in front of our self-employed and independent contractors.  Other bills such as House Bill 1515 and its companion Senate Bill 5513 are fundamentally unfair and could have a devastating impact on individuals and their families. Who exactly does it hurt? Those who testified against House Bill 1515 include builders and contractors, massage therapists, pet care services, physical therapists, rideshare drivers, hospitality workers, realtors, retail, nursery and landscape workers, lawyers, doctors, the technology industry and truck drivers.

A public hearing was recently held on another problematic measure, House Bill 1601, which makes it harder for many self-employed individuals to be classified as a sole proprietor or independent contractor.  Many people from across our state correctly spoke out against the bill, which is nothing more than a government encroachment disguised in good intentions. HB 1601 attempts to set up state run panels to determine the market-rate for independent contractors.  This assault on free market will have serious and damaging consequences. As Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman once said, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

The energy and passion against these bad pieces of legislation is strong. However, I urge the business community to remain active and not be complacent. We must stand united against policies that expand government, erode our freedoms, and negatively affect our jobs, families and community.

I can assure you, my fellow House Republicans and I will continue to advocate for the rights of Washingtonians to work for themselves and determine what is best for their own lives and families.  The economy is not one size fits all, and we must continue to allow every Washingtonian the opportunity to find economic success.

Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, represents the 18th Legislative District and is serving his fourth term. He serves on the House Finance, Commerce and Gaming, and Consumer Protection and Business committees.

State Representative Brandon Vick, 18th Legislative District
465 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(564) 888-2271 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000