Dear Ms. Gonzalez—
This is insane.
Your law AB5, also known for some reason as “the gig economy law” despite its total miscomprehension of what the gig economy is or how it works, was a travesty when it passed in 2019.
Now, though. mid-pandemic, it’s an outright catastrophe.
Per AB5, essentially, California workers are employees until proven independent contractors. The law was devised to crack down on the supposed misclassification of drivers for companies like Lyft, Uber, and DoorDash, but it was written so broadly and so sloppily that it’s impacted no end of California industries, from journalism to house cleaning to software publishing and beyond. In recent days, musicians were spared the bill’s teeth, but the same way I can’t clean up my children’s messes just by picking up their socks (as their books, crumbs, and stuffed animals will remain), you can’t clean up your silly law just by sparing industries who’ve been “vocal” (teehee) about their complaints (journalists, also heavily impacted, are expected, among others, to get relief later this year).
The above-cited revisions will be helpful. Unhelpful, however, will be the lost opportunities for drivers in California, who are now 76% less likely to find work than they were before AB5 took effect, and California gig workers in general, who now have 80 to 90 percent less opportunities than they did before AB5. Incidentally, both those stats came into my focus surrounding presumptive Democratic Party Presidential Nominee Joe Biden’s horrifying alignment to the law, which sent a chill through those who fear such a disaster impacting us nationwide.
The law’s anti-independent-contractor sensibility stretches back to the first half of the 20th century, when the economy was drastically different and a given worker was generally classified as an employee unless she happened to be the company’s owner. The conversation changed in 1935, when as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal, The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a workers rights law, drew a clear line between employees and independent contractors, thus granting the former protections and the latter none (and yet—here’s the key—granting them independence…).
Things have changed since 1935. Independent contractors have evolved into a distinctive class of workers, ones who often value their independence. If we didn’t, you wouldn’t be hearing us lambast you every time you try to communicate about anything on social media. Without question, employers routinely misclassify their workers as independent contractors to save on taxes, workers compensation insurance, and other workers rights-related costs, but by painting countless employers and workers with the same broad brush, AB5 has gone beyond throwing out the baby with the bath water.
It’s thrown out the baby, the bath water, and the bathtub.
This past week, news emerged that per the provisions of AB5, San Francisco’s district attorney will be suing DoorDash for their hiring practices. In response to the lawsuit, DoorDash’s Global Head of Public Policy Matt Rettig wrote: “Now more than ever, Californians from all walks of life look to DoorDash for flexible earnings opportunities, working on average a few hours per week. Throughout the pandemic, DoorDash has supported Dashers on and off the road with free safety equipment, telemedicine, earnings replacement, and more. Today’s action seeks to disrupt the essential services Dashers provide, stripping hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, parents, retirees and other Californians of valuable work opportunities, depriving local restaurants of desperately needed revenue, and making it more difficult for consumers to receive prepared food, groceries, and other essentials safely and reliably.”
As of May, due to Covid-19 shutdowns, California’s unemployment rate was 16.3%, 4 points higher than it was in The Great Recession. In April, the state’s unemployment rate was 16.4%, just a 10th of a percentage point higher. In other words, this is shaping up to be a slow recovery.
The Covid-19 pandemic, like the historically obtuse AB5, has eaten up precious jobs and livelihoods. The pandemic is also a mindless aberration of nature.
What’s your excuse?
Creative Director, The Milpitas Beat