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Issues & Insights

Will The Ban On Freelance Work Result In A Political Turning Point For California?

Editor’s note: This has been excerpted with permission from the Pacific Research Institute. To read the entire report, click here.

The backlash over California’s Assembly Bill 5, legislation that robs workers of their freedom, was likely not expected by lawmakers. They’re accustomed to an electorate that agreeably goes along with whatever policies they impose, no matter how invasive.

The response to AB5, which outlaws, with a few exceptions, freelance and independent contract work, has been an outlier. There’s a lot of anger over the law.

Hundreds who not only want but need to regain their right to earn a living have rallied for repeal in San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Folsom. They’re “fighting back” against AB5’s “bizarre and ruinous” — and unrealistic — standards. Some are “suffering” because of the law. The rallies weren’t Antifa-like riots but a reasonable demonstration of frustration from everyday Californians outraged that Sacramento legislated away their rights and their independence through a bill written by the AFL-CIO.

“None of the people impacted by AB5 wanted the government’s help in the first place,” was the Chico Enterprise-Record’s way of explaining the “common theme” of the Sacramento rally.

Frustrated workers have vented on Twitter, using hashtags such as #AB5, #RepealAB5, #AB5Stories, and #FixAB5.

“Living in California destroys opportunity. Thanks @GavinNewsom & @LorenaSGonzalez just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse in this once-amazing state,” tweeted storyteller and cartoonist Linda Rothstein.

Like so many others who feel they’ve been robbed, musician Adrian Galysh didn’t hold back, “The #AB5 nightmares keep adding up. Bad legislation passed by corrupt politicians.”

Some are wondering if their political preferences are a mistake.

“One of many people,” writer Kirsten Mortensen tweeted, “who are now questioning their party affiliation thanks to #AB5. Will Dems wake up and #repealAB5 in time to stanch the blood?”

Mortensen’s comment should chill the blood of the dominant party in California. And it brings home another point. The victims of AB5 cross a broad spectrum of Californians. They are truck drivers, opera singers, writers, rideshare drivers, custodians, hairdressers, musicians, dancers, housekeepers, artists, and home repairmen, to name a few.

While there’s great diversity, which is normally a point of pride among California lawmakers, the pain is disproportionately spread. Women, who make up two-thirds of all freelancers, and prefer the flexibility and the financial opportunities of the gig economy over traditional employment, and the disabled, who are self-employed at nearly twice the rate — 11% to 6% — as the non-disabled, are getting the worst of it.

Despite the law’s recency — it took effect only on Jan. 1 — legislative, ballot, and legal reprisals are already stacking up.

To continue reading, click here.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.


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Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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