Self-employed and independent contractors beware

If you are an independent contractor or a sole proprietor in Washington state, your livelihood is under attack!

Six weeks into the legislative session and a number of proposals before the Legislature have threatened the freedom, flexibility and livelihood of being an independent contractor or being self-employed.  

It started this session with Senate Bill 5326. You would think Olympia was having a bad hair day as more than 1,000 hairdressers and stylists came to testify against the bill. It received media attention across the state as those in the hairdressing and stylist industry made their presence known on the Capital Campus as they packed the public hearing.

With all the backlash and negative media attention, it did not take long for Sen. Karen Keiser, the sponsor of Senate Bill 5326, to declare the bill dead.

Unfortunately, her bill was just the start. House Bill 1515 and its companion Senate Bill 5513 are also harmful to our self-employed individuals and independent contractors. The bills hide under the guise of its title “concerning the employer-employee relationship.” Sounds harmless enough, but the intent of the bills is to get individuals to be employees working for an employer so they can pay into government programs such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation, all so the state can collect more business taxes.

House Republicans are working on a different approach – helping employers by creating a small business bill of rights.

Possibly the most alarming part of the legislation being pushed by the majority party, is the number of people it affects. It is much more than hairdressers and stylists. Builders and contractors, massage therapists, pet care services, physical therapists, rideshare drivers, hospitality workers, realtors, retail, nursery and landscape workers, the technology industry and truck drivers are all negatively impacted.   

We have seen a strong presence and energy in Olympia from those who are opposed to these bad policy bills. However, the business community, and those of us who support our sole proprietors, must not let our guard down until the session is over.

We must stand strong against proposed legislation that erodes our freedoms, especially when it is affecting jobs, livelihoods, and communities. Many of our sole proprietors and independent contractors want or need the freedom and flexibility of being self-employed to fit into their family life schedule while still maximizing their income. Some call it the American Dream – the freedom and opportunity for prosperity and success as they see it.

That is not how the sponsors or supporters of these bills see it. They believe they are protecting these small business people from themselves.

However, these folks do not need protection. Government needs to stay out of the way.

While I cannot predict what will happen the last nine weeks of session, I do know I will be working to protect the freedom and independence our sole proprietors rely on to make a living and do what is best for their families.

Rep. Keith Goehner, R-Dryden, represents the 12th Legislative District and is serving his first term. He serves on the House State Government and Tribal Relations, Local Government and Transportation committees.

State Representative Keith Goehner, 12th Legislative District
122B Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7954 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000