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.
While Californians are still fighting for their freedom to work, Biden and congressional Democrats are scheming to make the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act federal law. The legislation, passed earlier this year by the Democratic House but mercifully blocked in the Senate by the Republican majority, would include the same set of rules that made AB5 such a nasty piece of legislation.
The real and potential costs of AB5, which was supported by Biden running mate California Sen. Kamala Harris, are staggering:
- If voters had not approved Prop 22, Uber and Lyft – as well as other companies that have arrangements with app-based drivers – probably would have closed their businesses in California, resulting in enormous job and consumer losses. The other option was to increase rideshare pricing. In some areas, the cost of a ride would have to be raised by as much as 111%.
- The cost of doing business under the strain of AB5 was estimated to grow by $1.3 billion to nearly $7 billion a year for the companies that fell under the law, according to the R Street Institute. This leaves many businesses with a difficult choice. They can either cut employees’ hours, and in some cases eliminate jobs, or shut down altogether.
- AB5 stripped workers of their freedom to move from company to company; to make their own hours so they can juggle work, school and family; to avoid lousy bosses; to earn money to pay for emergencies; and to supplement their primary income. Workers are trapped beneath the weight of AB5, and many rightfully resent it. A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey found that “fewer than one in 10 independent contractors” would choose traditional work environments over freelancing.
- Entrepreneurs who could build successful businesses and create jobs by relying on contract workers are blocked by AB5.
- Both the U.S. and Californian constitutions guarantee equal protection under the law. AB5, with its many exemptions and carve-outs, would violate that American principle of fairness and equity.
Biden has publicly endorsed the PRO Act, tweeting in September, and promising on his campaign website, that he would sign the bill if it made it to his desk. The signing ceremony would be a big #%&@ing deal to him because, like AB5, it’s a giveaway to unions. It matters not to Biden nor his party that it would threaten 59 million jobs, many of them held by Democrats, as long as they are able to crow about a legislative “achievement” while keeping the firehose of union campaign cash and in-kind contributions wide open.
Independent contractors’ future is closely tied to President Donald Trump’s election challenges. Should those efforts fail, they’re down to one last chance – the U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia on Jan. 5. If voters don’t send at least one of the Republican candidates from that election to the Senate, then the Democrats will own Washington: The White House, the House, and the Senate, where 50-50 ties would be broken by Vice President Harris.
AB5 is a government boot on workers’ throats, a malign and destructive force. But with no opposition to check it, the party that says it stands with the working man will spread the cruelty nationwide and make American workers’ lives miserable while pushing the fiction that the only thriving and happy workers are union members. To the Democrats, workers are just a stepping stone to more power.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board