California Democrats stole the livelihoods of millions when the Legislature passed and the governor signed a bill that virtually outlawed gig work. Might-be-president Joe Biden has promised to sign a federal bill that would also ban independent contract and freelance jobs if he makes it to the White House. Legalizing theft doesn’t make it any less immoral or destructive.
Assembly Bill 5, California’s gift to labor unions, became law on Jan. 1 of this year. It forces companies to hire gig economy workers who were previously classified as independent contractors. As many as 2 million Californians are estimated to be reliant on gig work for their income, both primary and supplemental.
The legislation included some exemptions, which were expanded by this year’s Assembly Bill 2257. It was further weakened, but not killed, by Proposition 22, a ballot measure that defined app-based (rideshare) and delivery drivers as independent contractors. The drivers, regarded by unions as a rich source of membership dues if only they could be organized, were the principal targets of the legislation. That as many as 1.5 million freelancers in dozens of other fields were caught in the dragnet was just a bonus.
Despite its holes, the law still applies to a large group of workers who don’t have enough political influence to gain exemptions from Sacramento. Even those whose professions and occupations were exempted by AB2257 had their lives disrupted for most of the year.
AB5 is easily the most-hated law passed in California in the last two decades, if not the most detested legislation of all time. It spawned Twitter hashtags such as #RepealAB5, #AB5Stories, and #FixAB5; set off protests; and triggered lawsuits. Reliably Democratic voters affected by the law even threatened to change their party loyalty.