According to its defenders, Assembly Bill 5 addresses “worker misclassification.” As recent developments confirm, the measure is really a matter of legislator misclassification.
Legislators purport to represent the people and uphold their rights under the U.S. and California constitutions. AB 5 runs roughshod over the rights of the people and seeks to serve the interests of unions, which do not represent the people. And contrary to popular belief, unions do not represent “labor.”
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, unions represent only 14.7 percent of California’s wage and salaried workers. A full 85.3 percent of California workers, the vast majority, are not union members. AB 5, written by the AFL-CIO, aims to force workers into unions and thus clearly aims to benefit a special interest. The measure is also a watershed moment in other ways.
AB 5 is the first California law specifically to target independent workers such as freelance writers, a small and vulnerable segment of the population, and limit their ability to make a living. Never before has a California law restricted any independent worker or contractor to 35 transactions a year.
As the damage assessments roll in from multiple professions, AB 5 supporters resist all attempt to put a hold on the measure. As California Globe notes, on Thursday the legislature rejected a motion by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) to suspend AB 5 while corrective legislation is under consideration. For those already harmed by AB 5, this should confirm its hostile intent.
AB 5 targets the so-called “gig economy,” which amounts to the free market, and limits workers’ rights to free and voluntary association. The attempt to make freelancers conventional employees comes at a time when newspaper chains such as McClatchy are bankrupt and shedding full-time staffers.
AB 5 thus amounts to an infringement of writers’ First Amendment rights and an attack on the independent websites who publish their work.
Lorena Gonzalez, an attorney and former AFL-CIO union organizer, is not competent or qualified to judge the professions, rates of pay and working conditions Californians choose for themselves. AB 5 is a deliberate assault on individual choice, voluntary exchange, and the free market.
Supporters of AB 5 have abandoned the conventional role of legislators and become straw bosses of the unions who demonstrate outside the state capitol shouting “this is our house!” The people do not vote for union bosses, who represent less than 15 percent of workers in the state of California.
By any standard, AB 5 is a repressive measure more suited to an authoritarian regime such as Venezuela than a constitutional republic. Legislators turn a blind eye to the harm, and to date federal judges such as Phillip Gutierrez and Dolly Gee have sided with pro-AB 5 legislators, in Dolly’s Gee’s case, on their intentions alone.
As Gee ruled, the court “cannot second guess the Legislature’s choice to enact a law that seeks to uplift the conditions of the majority of non-exempt low- income workers rather than preserve the status quo for the smaller subset of workers who enjoy independent contractor status.”