We’ve written a few times now about California’s AB5 law that has more or less made it difficult to impossible for many freelancers/contractors to still work in California. Even though the stated intentions of the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, and its supporters was to “protect” workers, the reality is anything but that. It’s yet another case of politicians who have no clue how the world actually works, insisting that what they’re doing must work fine because their intentions are good. Many people who have been impacted by this have found that Gonzalez has been dismissive of their concerns — and at times directly rude to people on Twitter highlighting these issues. We had thought that perhaps Gonzalez had realized there might be a more constructive way at the end of last year when she asked for thoughts on a possible small tweak to the law. That change would have been wildly insufficient, but it was, at least, a step in the right direction.
However, with the new year, we apparently have the same old Lorena Gonzalez. She was interviewed on local San Diego TV station KUSI, and was obnoxiously dismissive of the idea that people have actually been harmed by her law. The newscasters highlighted actual people who were losing work because of the law, and Gonzalez’s response was that she doesn’t believe the people. In one case, they showed an interview with a freelance translator — who actually had worked for the state and even for Gonazlez herself, and had voted for her — who said she can’t get work any more because of AB5, and Gonzalez appears to dismiss her as not telling the truth.
I’m sorry, and I feel that she does feel that way. But, I don’t think it’s true
She then claims that (of course) unnamed translator companies have been telling her they love AB5 because other companies have been undercutting them by bringing in freelancers.
Multiple people are shown talking about how this law is negatively impacting them, and time and time again Gonzalez dismisses their concerns or insists they can just “form a business” and be exempt. She jumps in, as soon as the interview starts, to say that she just doesn’t believe that thousands of people have been put out of work. But notice that she’s choosing her words carefully — saying that people have been “put out of work.” But freelancers who are just not getting the jobs they used to aren’t “put out of work,” they’re just not seeing any new work like they used to. Gonzalez’s entire framing of the issue suggests she still has no idea how freelancing works.
Hilariously, just minutes later, Gonzalez then completely dismisses more examples of freelancers who are losing work because of AB5. The reporters at the TV station highlight Vox Media’s decision to cut off 200 freelancers in California and Gonzalez responds:
First of all, it wasn’t a job. Those aren’t jobs. Those are freelance positions.
Uh, yes. And now they’re gone. She goes on to try to dismiss all of those Vox writers, by suggesting that it was more of a side thing. But, uh, the whole point is that those “side” jobs aren’t available any more, and it ignores how many freelancers pile up a bunch of those kinds of gigs to make a living — with the flexibility that they want.
KUSI then shows an interview with an independent contractor political cartoonist, who notes that even if you’re exempt from the law, as a private business (Gonzalez keeps falling back to the idea that any freelancer can set up their own corporation — which costs a lot of money, by the way — and then they’re exempt), media companies don’t want to deal with the risk and aren’t hiring them any more. Rather than respond to the actual concerns of the cartoonist, Gonazlez goes into a semantics argument saying that merely using the terms “hire and fire” show that we’re talking about jobs, not contractors. But, uh, no, that’s not how any of this works.
As the interview ends, she says that “thousands” of (nameless) people have been thanking her because they “now have jobs” thanks to AB5. What’s amazing is that apparently none of those people have social media or have talked to any news organizations, because all of the people publicly discussing AB5 appear to be freelancers and contractors who are losing business because of the bill.
Oh, and just to put a kicker on this. Just as the interview was being conducted, the NY Times opened up a job request for a freelancer to cover California real estate. Oh, but they can’t live in California because of AB5.
The @nytimes is hiring a contractor to write about California real estate, but because of #AB5 they will not be hiring anyone in California. ?
— emma gallegos (@emmagallegos) January 11, 2020
They’re not the only ones, of course. Late last year, local news site Patch, which hires many freelancers, announced that it was looking to hire people to cover California… but only if they didn’t live in California.
What comes up time and time again, and which Gonzalez keeps dismissing, is that tons of these freelancers want to be freelancers and don’t want to be employees. And she, without understanding these industries, keeps insisting that she knows better, and that they’d be better off with jobs they don’t want. It’s a mess.
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