Industry Leaders Request Exemption On PRO Act Provision During Meetings With Capitol Hill Legislators
Independent contractor status was a priority issue raised to legislators on Capital Hill Wednesday during PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.).
L.E.A.D. is an annual meeting between industry leaders and government legislators, which, prior to the pandemic, was held in-person but has carried on in a virtual format. It is intended to inform and educate congressional members and their staffs about legislation and issues affecting the promotional products industry. The event continues through Thursday. In total, 37 industry volunteers attended, and 67 meetings were requested of representatives from all over the country.
Among a few key topics discussed was the PRO Act, which, as written, would hinder much of the salesforce in the promotional products industry from operating as independent contractors.
Discussing The PRO Act
- The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, among other stated goals, aims to protect independent contractors from exploitation by largely reclassifying them as employees unless they meet specific criteria.
- A key distinction PPAI and members of the industry wanted to make was the difference between workers in the “gig economy” and independent contractors in the promotional products industry, who choose to be independent often in order to be their own bosses and make their own schedules.
- Unlike workers in the gig economy, they argue, the relationship between independent contractors in the promotional products industry and their distributors is reciprocally beneficial.
- “The public perception about [the PRO Act] centers around the gig economy model, like rideshare [apps],” says Bob Levitt of Staples Promotional Products, a regular volunteer advocate for L.E.A.D. who was unable to attend this year but participated in preparations for the event. “It is critical that our elected officials understand that this is a much broader issues that impacts a large part if the constituency.”
- PPAI has expressed concerns that the enforcement of this aspect of the PRO Act would deprive thousands of independent contractors in the promotional products industry of earning an income.
In The Meetings
In a Wednesday afternoon session with Jake Johnson, a legislative correspondent to Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ways in which the PRO Act affect the industry were raised by volunteers as a concern. The session included volunteers who represented Gemini Industries, Hirsch Gift and Halo Branded Solutions. Johnson, who has a focus on small business issues, listened as the volunteers talked through certain distinctions.
- Industry volunteers brought up the promotional product industry’s current model that lets entrepreneurship thrive, largely through partnerships with companies as independent contractors. These independent contractors make up their own sort of small businesses which have ample room to thrive while also helping companies small and large do business.
- “Independent contractors are used all through our industry,” says Steven Meyer, MAS, National Sales Manager at Gemini Industries, who attended the meeting with Senator Inhofe’s office during L.E.A.D. “The proposed changes would seriously damage both the opportunities to work with or to contract with individuals to represent companies.”
Volunteers requested Washington to consider that the worker reclassification provisions not include a uniform application. The promotional products industry is asking to be exempt from the provision under the basis that independent contractors within this industry are not the intended focus of the proposed policy.
Lend Your Voice
PPAI has made it easy to support industry colleagues by calling or emailing members of Congress in support of the same issues addressed during L.E.A.D.’s virtual meetings. To participate:
Click here to send editable, pre-written emails or call members of Congress.
Forward PPAI emails to colleagues and team members and encourage them to participate as well.