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Doug Ose. (Photo: Rebuild-ca.org)

AB 5 Making Coronavirus Crisis Worse in California’s Rural Areas Lacking Independent Healthcare Contractors

California Assemblyman and former Congressman urge Gov. Newsom to suspend AB 5 during COVID-19 crisis

By Katy Grimes, March 23, 2020 12:40 pm

Two California politicians and thousands of Californians who are independent contractors, gig economy workers, and freelancers, are calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to use his Emergency Powers to suspend Assembly Bill 5’s restrictions on independent contracting during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Every day we wait to take action, more Californians are losing their livelihoods as the result of AB 5,” Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) says. Kiley has been sending letters to Gov. Newsom to suspend AB 5 for myriad reasons.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Former California Congressman Doug Ose, Chairman of Rebuild California Foundation, also sent a letter to the governor and said “if AB 5 is not immediately suspended then the consequences of the coronavirus collapse will be magnified. Your action now to suspend AB5 will provide relief to over one million Californians.”

Both Kiley and Ose are calling for Gov. Gavin Newsom to suspend AB 5, or at minimum, allow a grace period to study the impacts of the legislation before it is fully enacted.

“AB 5, in its current form, is causing chaos,” Kiley explained to California Globe. “Even lawyers can’t make heads or tails of it. And everyone, including the author, says major changes are coming. Why on earth would we not allow a brief Grace Period until these changes take effect next year?”

Since January 1, Assembly Bill 5 by former labor leader Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), has already significantly limited Californians’ ability to work as independent contractors and freelancers. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that AB 5 has already affected more than 1 million independent contractor and freelance working Californians, and the growing list of 300+ industries impacted by the new law.

It was revealed during Senate debate in September that the AFL-CIO wrote AB 5.

There are multiple reasons to suspend AB 5 during the coronavirus crisis including:

It is a double whammy for people already harmed and out of work because of AB 5;
There is little to no ability to go and get a W-2 job, especially right now as millions are filing unemployment claims from business shutdowns due to the governor’s orders to shelter in place;
The overall loss of economic activity at a time when it is desperately needed;
The lack of ability to ride out this crisis for people who have already lost income;
The added strain on public resources;
The limits on healthcare professionals who are independent contractors;
The limits on independent tutors and others who could replace educational services lost due to shutdown.

Assemblyman Kiley sent a letter to Governor Newsom laying out the legal authority, under the California Emergency Services Act, for the Governor to suspend the recently enacted law in order to allow more Californians to work remotely and to enable greater provision of care by a host of healthcare professions.

“The Governor has shown strong leadership in confronting an unprecedented crisis, making hard but necessary decisions,” Kiley said. “Suspending AB 5 is one easy thing he could do that would make a big difference.”

“At a time when most Californians can’t work outside the home, AB 5 is stopping many of them from working inside the home.”

Ose is also concerned about the impact on medical professionals in rural areas. “We are all aware of the significant challenge facing us dealing with coronavirus,” Ose said. “Those challenges are particularly acute in rural California, where hospitals and clinics don’t have sufficient patient loads to support full time positions in a number of physician and nursing specialties.  In the past, such needs have been met by contracting with independent contractors to provide services.  That approach is problematic now that AB 5 has become law.”

Rural California Assembly Districts are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of AB 5 during the coronavirus scare, largely because they already do not have enough doctors, nurses or even hospitals.

Some of these rural areas include:

  • California’s 13th State Assembly district in Western San Joaquin, represented by Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton);
  • California’s 56th State Assembly district, represented by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), is primarily rural and encompasses the Imperial Valley and parts of the Coachella Valley and Colorado Desert;
  • California’s 21st State Assembly district, in the heart of the Central Valley is represented by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced);
  • California’s 30th State Assembly district, is centered on the Pajaro Valley and Salinas Valley, major agricultural areas, is represented by Assemblyman Robert Rivas (D-Hollister).
  • California’s 32nd State Assembly district is located in the southwestern Central Valley, is mainly agricultural, is currently represented by Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield).

The above Assembly members, with the exception of Adam Gray, voted to pass AB 5. Gray, who voted no on the bill, was the only Democrat in both houses of the Legislature to do so.

“We recommend that, at a minimum, you immediately waive the application of AB5 at rural hospitals and medical clinics using your emergency powers,” Ose said in his letter. “This will allow administrators to provide medical care with trained personnel who are independent contractors, just as they were previously able to do prior to the adoption and implementation of AB5.”

“You were correct in saying the coronavirus situation is an ‘All hands on deck’ challenge,” Ose said. “You would greatly amplify the ability of rural hospitals to meet the coming tsunami by waiving the application of AB5 at hospitals and clinics in rural California. Being able to treat rural California residents at rural hospitals and clinics would significantly reduce the demand for beds in urban hospitals and clinics because patients would not have to be transported thereto.”

“We urge your immediate attention to this proposal,” Ose said. “It is the right thing to do.”

Kiley’s Assembly Bill 1928 is an urgency measure to repeal AB 5 and would return the legal standard for independent contracting to what it was for decades before AB 5 and the Dynamex decision. A recent vote in the California Assembly to suspend AB 5 while corrective legislation is under consideration was killed by Assembly Democrats. Kiley proposed the Legislature suspend those recent changes pending further legislative consideration. Kiley will continue to move forward AB 1928, and he said he still believes repealing AB 5 is the best solution.

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15 thoughts on “AB 5 Making Coronavirus Crisis Worse in California’s Rural Areas Lacking Independent Healthcare Contractors

  1. People came to America to be free of religious discrimination, have the ability to own life sustaining land ,have food from free access to lakes, rivers and work freely as free people…..what parts of free have we lost in California?

    All of it…….

  2. Digging your heels in on not letting health care professionals work only shows us the Democrats in Sacramento aren’t serious about CV-19.
    Just please REPEAL AB5. Now.

  3. Maybe union dues and a percentage of public pensions should go toward funding private contractors and freelancers.

  4. California Assembly Member, Lorena Gonzalez has tweeted that she “IS A TEAMSTER” and “SHE IS THE UNION,” proclamations that put her diametrically opposed to the rights of ALL workers, most notably independent contractors that have no union affiliation. She has gone as far as to suggest they are a “sub-standard” class of workers. There must be some legal remedy for her outlandish claims and her inability to equally protect the interests of her entire constituency. For months she has said that “new language” is coming to clarify some of AB5’s provisions on gig workers but, in the meantime, people have lost their livelihoods. If one can’t author a cohesive, well-thought-out-bill then one has no business making it law!

    1. You tell ’em, Nate Rubin!
      DISGUSTED by this woman and all that she represents.
      Wondering what happened to the “equal protection under the law” challenge?
      And abridgement of First Amendment rights?
      I know we must be patient for a Constitutional challenge but haven’t heard a thing about it since I first heard about it.
      Has it all become pointless now that we are under the governor’s/mayors’ “safety” jackboots?
      Is that one of the things these characters hope to achieve, in addition to the rest of their wish list?

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