When Assembly Bill No. 5 rolled out in January, the ramifications of such a far-reaching bill weren’t yet fully understood. Neither the governing body that signed it into action — nor the gig workers that it directly (and indirectly) affected — could fully comprehend what might occur after its inception. Sure, there was ample uncertainty as to how it would affect certain industries, but there was also a significant amount of optimism, too. Many people saw it as their salvation, an opportunity to finally get a little bit of stability in their lives. Others, though, were certain it would spell out their demise, all but terminating their tenure as freelancers.
AB5 was admittedly a fairly idealistic bill, and its premise was fairly straightforward: If you happened to be a gig worker (or freelancer) in the state of California, then surprise! According to this new bill, you were suddenly an employee. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, this new title also came with a host of awesome new benefits associated with such a role. What kind of benefits were made available to these former gig workers? Well, for example, they finally were entitled to literal employee benefits. Like health insurance benefits, for starters. Paid time off. Overtime. A guaranteed minimum wage. On paper, it sounded pretty awesome. Who wouldn’t want all of these amazing perks?
Of course, AB5 didn’t consider these things to be “perks.” Instead, they just wanted workers in the Golden State to get what they felt was legally owed to them. The minds behind AB5 had a simple goal. They felt as though many of California’s workers were grossly misclassified, and they wanted to remedy that. And, based on the sheer number of protests across the state from Uber and Lyft workers, it seemed as though most people were inclined to agree with them. The problem, according to the lawmakers, was that many gig workers lacked basic protections that many hourly employees possessed. They just wanted what their shift-working peers had. Who could blame them?
While those who drafted AB5 may have sincerely believed they were doing the right thing, it also meant that suddenly thousands of gig workers in California were suddenly without a job. Why would someone want to hire a Californian when the risk of liability was so high? Take, for instance, freelance writers. According to the text of AB5, a freelancer could write a mere thirty-five articles before they were officially classified as an employee. Who would want to deal with that, and manually count every single article that landed on their desk, when they could simply snatch up a freelancer (with no such restrictions) from a different state?
Fortunately, the grumbling of these scores of disgruntled freelancers was finally heard. It was a long and arduous process, one where the outcome was hazy and uncertain at times. But this past week, Governor Gavin Newsome finally decided that enough was enough, and he made the necessary modifications to AB5. After much anticipation and vocal displeasure from California gig workers, freelancers (including writers, artists, musicians, and translators) are finally, well, free once more to do their own thing.
There’s a lesson to be learned here. Many freelancers chose this role because they wanted the personal autonomy to be able to do what they wanted, without massive overreach dictating the minutiae of their day-to-day lives. While there certainly were many gig workers who felt as though they were being taken advantage of (and there is strong evidence that this is true, particularly in the rideshare sector), many of us simply wanted to go back to how things were before AB5 tried to upend our lives.
When a law that was meant to help Californian workers actually winds up harming them, then it’s a fairly clear sign that there were serious flaws within it. Fortunately, California made the right call here. While there may be other modifications to it in the future, at least freelancers finally have been given back the liberty to work how they choose — without worrying about losing their employment because they were, ironically, made into employees.
September 19, 2020 at 10:15 am
wonderful post, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector do not realize this.
You must continue your writing. I am sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!
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