Independent contractors are the quiet engine of Oklahoma's economy. We value employment by large enterprises, but nearly all net growth in U.S. jobs over the last 30 years has been created by small startups, which include independent contractors. The economic survival of the 10.3 million people who choose to be their own bosses and grow their own businesses is being jeopardized by overwhelming regulations at the national level and here in Oklahoma.
It's My Business is a new coalition of individuals and organizations who support the rights of independent contractors. The aim is to give a voice to the millions of people who have chosen to build their own businesses. The nation's workforce is undergoing fundamental change to more flexible, entrepreneurial work. It's critical to raise awareness about the vital economic contribution of independent contractors. We want to put a spotlight on the numerous legal and regulatory threats making it more difficult for them, and the businesses they support.
At the state level, more than half of the states have approved or proposed new laws restricting independent contracting arrangements. Several others have also formed task forces increasing audits and prosecutions of independent contractors and clients.
Oklahoma has a long tradition of being friendly to small business. However, new regulations make it harder for independent contractors and their clients to work together. Businesses can't afford these types of regulations; independent contractors who want flexibility and freedom can't afford to be boxed in by “one size fits all” employment.
On the national front, the federal government has allocated $25 million for a joint IRS-Department of Labor initiative making it harder, if not illegal, for independent contractors and their clients to work together. These new regulatory actions are based largely on misinformation about the individuals who exercise the right to work for themselves and ignore the vital role they play in Oklahoma's economy.
I've been a staunch proponent for small businesses and entrepreneurs. I fought for their rights during my time in the U.S. Senate. Their contributions to virtually every aspect of our economy can't be overlooked. It's My Business is carrying that same torch today with its commitment to protect the right of independent contractors to choose a way of life that honors the right to pursue a business model that provides flexibility and creates jobs for America.
Tell your elected state and federal officials to stop attacks on independent contractors. They are the embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit in this country, and a powerful engine driving our economic recovery. They deserve our protection.
Lincoln is chairwoman of It's My Business (www.itsmybusiness.com.) She is a former Democratic U.S. House member and U.S. senator from Arkansas.