Saturday, July 20

Opinion | Protecting the Rights of Independent Contractors

To the Editor:

Re “The ‘Gig’ Label Is Being Used to Exploit Workers,” by Terri Gerstein (Opinion guest essay, Jan. 29):

We are the freelance writers and editors Ms. Gerstein mentioned who are suing the Department of Labor over the independent contractor rule that will, as she said, “make it harder for employers to treat workers as independent contractors rather than employees.” So let us explain.

The Department of Labor acknowledges in its 339-page rule published Jan. 10 that most of the public comments made by independent contractors expressed opposition to the rule, “criticizing the Department’s proposed economic reality test as ambiguous and biased against independent contracting.”

There are now more than 70 million independent contractors, comprising a significant portion of the U.S. work force, and study after study shows that 70 percent to 85 percent of us wish to remain self-employed. The independent contractor rule is just the latest in the Biden administration’s ongoing freelance-busting assault on our rights to be in business for ourselves.

Like the vast majority of independent contractors in America, we choose self-employment. This rule, slated to take effect on March 11, will restrict our right to engage in business contracts with our clients on our own terms. We hope the district court will invalidate the rule and protect our careers.

Jen Singer
Kim Kavin
Debbie Abrams Kaplan
Karon Warren
The writers are the co-founders of Fight for Freelancers USA.

To the Editor:

Terri Gerstein conflates the gig economy model with the independent contractor model and blames it for the ills and exploitation of independent contracting and gig work.

Ms. Gerstein uses the case of dishwashers exploited by a temporary agency. For such cases, federal and local statutes already on the books could address this minority of misclassification cases.

But in order to justify taking away the autonomy, rights and earning potential of tens of millions of independent contractors, as the latest Department of Labor rule seeks to do, Ms. Gerstein ignores the professional class of “solopreneurs”: journalists, lawyers, E.R. doctors, nurse practitioners and musicians, as well as the small-business owners who rely on this type of skilled professionalism to maintain and further their businesses.

Ms. Gerstein barely mentions this class, which makes up the majority of independent professionals. Instead, she champions changes in laws and regulations that ultimately would do nothing to help the low-wage workers, while doing great damage to true independent contractors.

Jennifer Oliver O’Connell
Muscle Shoals, Ala.
The writer, a small-business owner and independent contractor, is a visiting fellow with the Center for Economic Opportunity at Independent Women’s Forum.

To the Editor:

In my sixth decade of voting, I find myself with a different perspective. Age and voting experience have made me a bit less idealistic, just a little more realistic and, quite frankly, a lot more frightened.

The year 2016 changed things for me. I wasn’t overly concerned when Donald Trump first rode down the escalator. I didn’t believe he would ever win the nomination. And as he gained Republican delegates, I figured that wasn’t a bad thing. He would be the easiest candidate to defeat.

Now only Nikki Haley stands between Mr. Trump and the Republican nomination. Do I again fall into the potential trap of believing that Mr. Trump is unelectable — and the easiest candidate to defeat?

President Biden has had incredible accomplishments, at home and abroad. His policies are by far the best of any candidate, and I support him enthusiastically.

But given 2016, should I hope Republicans see the light and nominate Ms. Haley, who is far from perfect but, from appearances at least, far less dangerous than Mr. Trump?

It’s possible I may not like the result of a Biden-Haley matchup, but at least the survival of our democracy, and perhaps even world order, would not be on the ballot.

Stephen Gladstone
Shaker Heights, Ohio

To the Editor:

Re “Extinction Panic Is Back, Right on Schedule,” by Tyler Austin Harper (Opinion guest essay, Jan. 28):

Mr. Harper wants us to feel reassured that actual life-changing threats to human well-being are nothing more than predictable bouts of “extinction panic” that temporarily upend global complacency. You know, take some deep breaths and we’ll be fine.

I can’t predict how and when global warming will actually overtake our ability to mitigate its consequences, or if A.I.-powered robots will ever supersede human dominance. But I do worry about two specific disasters that could rock our world imminently and deserve more than a kind of “what me worry?” academic dismissal as just another cycle of extinction panic.

First, less than a year ago, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that we could soon be facing a pandemic far deadlier than Covid-19. Heightened surveillance, prevention and treatment research for new pathogens must be stepped up now.

Second, Mr. Harper seems to wave off the threat of nuclear conflict as just Cold War brinkmanship redux. Vladimir Putin’s finger is on the trigger of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, and North Korea’s unstable Kim Jong-un is increasingly obsessed with growing his own stockpile.

Add to that, the other seven nuclear-armed nations are always on high alert. And we should worry that Russia seems to be withdrawing from one arms control agreement after another.

So, no, Mr. Harper, this is far more than just another outbreak of “extinction panic.” It’s the real deal.

Irwin Redlener
New York
The writer, a pediatrician, is founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

To the Editor:

Re “Florida Cuts Sociology as a Core Course” (news article, Jan. 28):

When Florida’s state university system dropped “Principles of Sociology” from its list of approved undergraduate core offerings, the point was not actually protecting innocent college students from “woke ideology,” as the state education commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr., claimed.

After all, Florida students had several options for meeting the social science requirement. Nobody forced them to take sociology; they could have easily taken something else. They chose it, in sizable numbers.

Sociology often focuses attention on issues of inequality, race and gender — topics that Florida’s government would apparently prefer go unmentioned. Many college students, however, welcome the chance to discuss and learn about such issues of vital public and often personal relevance.

The effect of dropping this core credit will almost certainly lower sociology enrollments, and thus majors, perhaps priming departments for elimination. Courses may then vanish, but the issues they address will remain, whatever Gov. Ron DeSantis would like.

Daniel F. Chambliss
Clinton, N.Y.
The writer is emeritus professor of sociology at Hamilton College and the co-author of “How College Works.”

To the Editor:

Re “After 500 Years, Mexican Bullfighting Faces a Mortal Challenge” (front page, Feb. 4):

What kind of collective disconnect does it take for 42,000 people to cheer and celebrate as bulls wail in agony as swords are plunged into their spines and they die in a pool of blood?

Philip Tripp
Largo, Fla.