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If New Jersey worker bill passes, I may need to move to continue my freelance career | Opinion

Assembly Bill A5936 is being promoted as a way to end worker misclassification, but as it is written right now, my ability to earn a living will be severely curtailed.

Freelance writer Jen A. Miller.
Freelance writer Jen A. Miller.Read moreBruce Buckley

My name is Jennifer Miller, and I am a full-time freelance writer living in Audubon, N.J. I have worked in this role for nearly 15 years (I write under the byline Jen A. Miller).

When I was 12 years old, I wrote in my journal about what I wanted to do when I grew up. I didn’t have too clear a picture except for one thing: “I do not want to work in an office.” I’m now 39 years old and I work in a home office.

For 2019, I am on pace to have a gross income of $120,000. According to a recent crowdsourced document of journalists salaries, I could, at my skill level, make approximately $50,000 a year at NJ Advance or approximately $61,000 a year at the New York Times. Even in my off years of freelancing, I still, on average, bring in more than any of the employment opportunities these newsrooms provide, even factoring in the costs associated with being self-employed, and working about 30 hours a week to do so.

Given how precarious full-time newsroom jobs are right now, I am grateful that I have been able to thrive in my field in a way that works best for me and earns me more money that if I had a traditional W2 job. I have work-life balance that has let me live a whole, happy, and healthy life.

However, a new bill being rushed through New Jersey could put my 15-year career at risk. Assembly Bill A5936 is being promoted as a way to end worker misclassification, but as it is written right now, as it’s slated to be voted on in the state Assembly on Nov. 25, my ability to earn a living will be severely curtailed. In fact, based on my workload right now, I would lose half my income — or more. My peers in California are already losing work, both in and out of the state, just over fears about similar legislation. It hasn’t inspired employers to hire their freelancers. Instead, employers are either giving them less work or canceling contracts all together for work that was never meant to be full time or a full-time workload. Employers just don’t want to work with contractors based in California. If this bill passes, the same will be true for those of us who live in New Jersey.

California writers are contemplating moves. I was relieved that I wouldn't have to worry about that by living here — until now.

While I believe A5936 has good intentions, and that there is abuse in independent contractor system, I believe this bill is being rushed through without full consideration of how it would affect people like myself, who earn an excellent living and have a better quality of life because I decided to take a risk and strike out on my own.

This is not an Uber or Lyft situation. This isn’t even being forced to work on site for 36 hours a week without benefits. I earn double what I could in an office and work from the comfort of my home. This is someone living the American dream, from a dining room table in Audubon, N.J.

I have lived in New Jersey nearly all my life. In 2017, I tried to live somewhere else because I thought the grass would be greener in another state, but one year later, I came home to the place I love most. I just bought my house in 2018. Please don’t take away my ability to make a living or force me to move. Because if this passes, I won’t have another choice.

So I am asking you: please don’t pass this bill — at least not in this form. It will ruin the livelihood of entrepreneurs and drive good people and good talent out of the state.

Jen A. Miller is a veteran freelance writer and author of Running: A Love Story. She lives in Audubon, N.J.