Giving Independent Contractors a Voice

Independent contractors are the quiet engine of our economy, providing nearly all of the net growth in U.S. employment over the last 30 years. Yet the economic survival of the 10.3 million people who choose to be their own bosses and grow their own businesses are being jeopardized by overwhelming regulations at the national and state level.

It's My Business, a newly formed coalition of individuals and organizations who support the rights of independent contractors, is giving a voice to the millions of people who have chosen to be entrepreneurs and have the opportunity to build their own businesses.

At a time when our nation's workforce is changing, we believe it is critical to raise awareness about the vital contribution independent contractors make to our economy and put a spotlight on the numerous legal and regulatory threats that are making it more difficult for them, and the businesses they support, to succeed.

On the national front, the federal government has allocated $25 million for a joint IRS-Department of Labor initiative that is making it harder, if not illegal, for independent contractors and their clients to work together. Targeting mainly small businesses is a strategic decision because they are easier to prosecute than larger companies with more legal resources.

In addition, federal agencies have joined forces with 11 states to jointly investigate and prosecute independent contracting arrangements.

At the state level, more than half of the states have either approved or proposed new laws restricting independent contracting arrangements. Several other states have also formed statewide task forces to increase audits and prosecutions of independent contractors and their clients.

These new regulatory actions are based largely on misinformation about the individuals who are willingly exercising their right to work for themselves. A U.S. government study shows that 82.3 percent of those who are self-employed prefer their jobs to working as salaried or hourly employees. The actions also ignore the vital role that independent contracting plays in the U.S. economy, creating new jobs and providing services more efficiently and effectively than would be possible under a different structure. Most importantly, adequate laws currently exist to deal with willful misclassification of workers.

Throughout my career, I have been a staunch proponent for small businesses and entrepreneurs and I fought hard for their rights during my time serving Arkansas in the U.S. Senate. Their contributions to virtually every aspect of our economy simply cannot be overlooked.

It's My Business is carrying that same torch today. We are committed to protecting the right of independent contractors to choose a way of life that works best for them, and the right of businessmen and women to pursue a business model that provides lifestyle flexibility for them and their families and creates jobs and competitiveness for America.

But we can't do it alone. We are asking you to get engaged and take a stand, too. Tell your elected state and federal bureaucrats to stop their attacks on independent contractors. They are the embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit in this country, not to mention a powerful engine driving our economic recovery. They deserve our protection. This country can't afford to let them down.

Senator Blanche Lincoln is chairwoman of It's My Business, a coalition comprising individuals and organizations that support the 10.3 million independent contractors in the U.S. Lincoln represented Arkansas in the United States Senate from 1999 to 2011 and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 1997.