New California Gig Economy Bill Takes Effect, Inspiring Fierce Pushback

Paste magazine originally published this article on January 7, 2020.

A new California law, which took effect on Jan. 1, addresses the classification of gig economy workers such as rideshare drivers, truck drivers and freelance journalists, urging companies to treat them as employees with salaries and benefits, rather tahn as independent contractors. But even though Assembly Bill 5 is now law, enforcing it may prove to be an arduous task.

The bill’s author, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, elucidated the pay disparities between tech giants and the average worker at an April 2019 hearing: “The same week that workers had to go on strike because their per mileage fee was being cut, an investor was celebrating his $30,000 investment that became $120 million in one day. Something is wrong with the way we have allowed these companies to operate, and the people who pay are you and me,” she said, adding that taxpayers contribute to independent contractors’ earned income tax credits.

For Gonzalez, “A lot of people are getting rich and it’s not the workers, and it’s at the cost of taxpayers. It’s time to level the playing field, it’s time to be honest with workers, it’s time to be honest with companies.”

Not all independent contractors agree. Local truck drivers were granted a temporary restraining order that blocks California from enforcing AB5 on them. Organizations are also filing lawsuits, including the California Trucking Association, journalism groups such as the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association, plus tech companies Uber and Postmates. Companies like Lyft, Uber and DoorDash are starting a large-scale ballot campaign to get their workers exempt.

“This is an ongoing battle,” Gonzalez added.

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