On January 1, the new law affected everyone who works in the gig-economy, as well as freelancers and independent contractors. The new jobless in California comes from a variety of professions.
They have been voicing their outrage for months to the author of the labor union-backed bill, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego).
On Friday, Gonzalez said the job loss numbers were a lie, “There is no indication that thousands of freelancers have been laid off.” She also tweeted after the show those interviewed were presenting false facts about how AB-5 is affecting their ability to work.
— Lorena (@LorenaSGonzalez) January 11, 2020
Assembly Bill 5, passed mostly on party lines in the California Legislature, and with a vote by Republican Assemblyman Tyler Diep, and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, will force companies to reclassify independent contractors as employees – except for the industries which managed to secure exemptions from the law.
During the week of Jan, 6 KUSI in San Diego ran a series of interviews with people affected by the pro-union law. They invited Gonzalez into the studios on Friday and allowed her to respond to complaints from various freelancers including reporter Michelle Mears from the California Globe.
Freelancers from across the state have been talking on social media, in private Facebook groups, in interviews with multiple news stations and newspapers about their heartbreaking stories on losing their contracts and livelihood due to the new law.
Before a question could be presented to Gonzalez on live TV Friday, she blurted out, “I understand that is what you have been told by some folks but there is absolutely no data to suggest that thousands of people have been put out of work.”
News anchors from KUSI told Gonzalez during the interview they weren’t trying to vilify her but wanted her to have an opportunity to respond to the many guests who shared their stories of losing their ability to work under AB-5. KUSI has been directly affected by the law. The news stations producers told the California Globe they had to let go most of their stringers after the first of the year.
Gonzalez said, “Let me explain AB-5, if you work for a company you are an employee of that company it is very clear.”
If AB-5 was so clear, asked a group of protestors outside the KUSI studios Friday night, why did they lose their contracts? AB-5 is murky and companies around the world and the nation have told freelancers they are not going to take the risk and hire anyone from the state of California.
AB-5 turned California freelancers into liabilities.
Ildiko Santana, a translator and interpreter, was sent a letter this month by one of the companies she contracted with that she needs to be a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or C-Corporation before they will continue to work with her.
In the letter the company told Santana, “Following consultation with independent California counsel specializing in labor law, we have decided that it is in our best interest of protecting you as a vendor and our company that as Jan.1, 2020 we require incorporation.”
Gonzalez repeated multiple times that freelancers can operate as sole proprietors.
Gonzalez said freelancers need to have the right to all the same benefits as an employee like, social security, workers compensation, minimum wage, insurance etc.
A lawsuit was filed in December, one day after the digital sports media company SB Nation, owned by Vox Media, let go 200 California freelancers.
The Assemblywoman failed to mention the state of California being sued by the American Society of Journalists and Authors, a national professional organization. They are joined in the lawsuit by the National Press Photographers Association and represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation based in Sacramento.
Vox posted a statement on their website last month, “The California law makes it impossible for us to continue with our current California team site structure because it restricts contractors from producing more than 35 written content ‘submissions’ per year.”
Gonzalez remained non empathetic towards the Vox situation when KUSI anchors asked about the layoffs. “These aren’t jobs, they are freelance positions that may be three hours a month or 300 hours a month,”said Gonzalez. “But they weren’t writing full time or part time.”
“But that is what these people chose to do, to write when it suited their schedule,” said KUSI. “Like the journalist we spoke to today, when she was a military wife, depending if her husband was away or not, on the age of her child, she worked when she could and wanted. I can see that is an attractive way to work.”
California Globe asked Gonzalez during the interview with KUSI on Friday about her arbitrary number of limiting freelance contributions to 35 to one media outlet, and claimed it is a violation of the freedom of the press by controlling the press.
Gonzalez buckled down on the 35 articles and said she consulted with various journalist groups when writing the bill.
“Let’s be clear you used the words hire and fire…those are words you use with employees. When people hire freelancers they are skirting the responsibility of paying Social Security, getting paid family leave, sick days, and workers comp.”
“It’s a vendor relationship when you take on a sole proprietor. The state is here is to give these protections, labor laws apply.”
Gonzalez said companies that hire employees are doing the right thing.
“But isn’t it our choice if we want to work for that company? AB-5 is really taking the choice away from us,” said KUSI. “It’s our choice if we want a full time job or a part time job if I want a 9-5 job, if I want to work in a office or at home,”
“That is still your choice,” said Gonzalez. “You can work as an independent contractor as long as you set your own hours, set your terms, you are on your own and working with different folks. However, if you are working with one company and doing the work of that company, you are an employee.”
Part ll will follow up on the accusations made by Gonzalez regarding freelancers bilking taxpayers for billions in health insurance and other benefits; how Democrat congress members may be trying to take AB-5 nationally; and how AB-5 may be in conflict with the IRS and federal tax laws as California Globe has previously noted.
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