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Workers Resist California's Newest Bad Law

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

I'd like to see everyone have a happy and prosperous New Year.

But I'm afraid a lot of freelancers and independent contractors in California are going to have it tough in 2020.

Thanks to Democrat lawmakers in Sacramento, in fact, hundreds of thousands of part-time Uber drivers and freelance writers like me could lose their jobs or face drastic cuts in their incomes.

The culprit is Assembly Bill 5, the "progressive" new state law that rewrites the rules for part-time "gig" workers and forces companies to reclassify their independent contractors and turn them into full-time employees.

As of Jan. 2, Uber and Lyft drivers, independent truckers, freelance writers, photographers, artists and musicians and the companies who hire their services have to abide by AB 5.

The law, which was originally concocted to destroy the business models of Uber and Lyft and has exemptions for 50 professions, is a cynical and transparent gift to unions from the same Democrats who have been wrecking my one-party state for decades.

AB 5's proud mother, leftwing Democrat Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, claims it's intended to protect part-timers and freelancers from being "exploited" by their evil, greedy employers.

Her law is supposed to provide independent contractors with the same benefits and workplace protections that full-time employees get and - most important to the Democrats - therefore make it possible for them to unionize.

Given its leftist genes, it's not surprising that when AB 5 was signed into law last September unions, progressives and the Uber-hating liberal media were equally thrilled.

The liberal web site Vox, calling AB 5's passage "a historic moment" for U.S. labor, ran the headline "Gig workers' win in California is a victory for workers everywhere."

Ironically, however, Vox itself has become a victim of AB 5.

The law's many arbitrary and inflexible rules about who can work for whom and for how often include restricting freelance contractors at places like Vox from writing more than 35 columns or submissions per year.

Until the other day, Vox's parent company, Vox Media, had about 200 part-time freelancers from California under contract to write for its sports blogging network, SB Nation.

The media company could have reclassified the California freelancers as full-time employees to comply with AB 5, as it's in favor of forcing other companies to do.

Instead, the hypocrites running Vox Media reportedly decided to replace 200 freelancers with just 20 new part-time and full-time staffers.

Meanwhile, AB 5's completely arbitrary number of 35 contributions per year, per "independent contractor" affects me, too.

I'm still figuring out how to legally comply with law, but I can assure that I'm not planning to move out of the state.

The good news in this latest act of liberal political lunacy is that the legal experts say there will be years of court battles over the enforcement of AB 5, which has been accused, correctly, of being "irrational, vague and incoherent," not to mention unconstitutional.

The resistance has already begun.

The California Trucking Association has filed a lawsuit seeking an exemption for its 70,000 independent truckers.

Earlier this week Uber and Postmates, the courier services provider, asked a federal court to block the law.

And California's freelance photographers and writers are also seeking a restraining order, arguing that AB 5's rules will destroy their livelihoods.

I wish all the lawyers well in their fight against AB 5, but in the long run, it's probably going take a U.S. Supreme Court decision to undo all its predictably bad and unintended consequences.

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