Independent contractors are the quiet engine of Maine’s economy. We value the employment provided by large enterprises, but nearly all of the net growth in U.S. jobs during the last 30 years has been created by small startups, which include independent contractors such as plumbers, truck drivers and hairstylists.

Yet 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 Maine.

It’s My Business is a new coalition of individuals and organizations who support the rights of independent contractors. Our aim is to give a voice to the millions of people who have chosen to build their own businesses. At a time when our nation’s workforce is undergoing fundamental change to more flexible, entrepreneurial work, we believe it is critical to raise awareness about the vital contribution independent contractors make to our economy. We also want to put a spotlight on the numerous legal and regulatory threats that make success more difficult for them and the businesses they support.

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.

Maine lawmakers passed forward-thinking legislation last spring to standardize the definition of independent contractors. Through the enactment of L.D. 1314, the Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage took a positive step toward improving the local business climate.

A threat, however, still remains. The federal government has allocated $25 million for a joint IRS-Department of Labor initiative that makes it harder, if not illegal, for independent contractors and their clients to work together. Targeting 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.

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.

We ask citizens to take a stand, too, by visiting www.itsmybusiness.com and telling their elected state and federal officials to stop their attacks on independent contractors. They are the embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit in this country and here in Maine. They deserve our protection, and we can’t afford to let them down.

 

Former Sen. Blanche Lincoln is chairwoman of the It’s My Business coalition, comprising individuals and organizations that support more than 10.3 million people who work for themselves. A Democrat, she served Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

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