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26 Feb 2020

A Note From the Editor: The Incompetence of AB 5 Is Giving Some Younger Voters a Bad First Impression of State Government

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A recent Independent story, which serves as the cover story in our March print edition, examines the mess that Assembly Bill 5 has made for independent musicians.

As the headline says … it’s a shit show.

You can read the specifics in the story—by my friend Kevin Allman, who recently moved to Southern California after a 12-year stint as the editor of the Gambit weekly in New Orleans—but I wanted to point out something I discovered while editing and fact-checking the piece: This AB 5 mess marks the first time that a lot of young adults have had to seriously deal with the consequences of a new state law … and they’re pissed. One tongue-in-cheek comment I saw on a social-media account sums it up: “Yay California. Way to lift people up. Regulations is just what we need!”

Actually … AB 5 was needed. It was just badly executed. In April 2018, in response to a case against a transportation company, the California Supreme Court ruled that a worker could only be considered an independent contractor (rather than an employee) if the worker met three specific criteria. As a result, the Legislature needed to step in and craft new law to clarify things … and that led to AB 5.

Well, AB 5 arguably made a bad situation worse: In an attempt to “protect” Lyft and Uber drivers, as well as drivers for services like Postmates and Grubhub, by making sure they were classified as employees, Rep. Lorena Gonzalez pushed through legislation that, with neither rhyme nor reason, exempted some gigs, while not exempting others. Graphic artists and fine artists were exempted … while musicians were not. Freelance writers were exempted, but only if they write 35 pieces or fewer for a publication/website in a year.

Why 35? I have no idea. Neither does anyone else.

Take the situation Independent music scribe Matt King now faces. Matt, for the most part, decides what he writes about; he suggests story topics, and I say yea or nay while giving him a deadline. He works when he wants, where he wants, and is paid more than a minimum-wage equivalent for his work. Yet barring a change in the law, I’ll soon need to either bring him on as an employee, or let him go, if we want to comply with the law.

Matt is also a musician and a band leader—and according to AB 5, he should be considered both an employee and an employer at his gigs now: He’d be an employee of the venue, and the employer of his band mates.

It’s a shit show.

The state and Democratic lawmakers are making a terrible impression on a whole lot of young residents as a result of AB 5—and who knows what future electoral consequences this may have?

As always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. Feel free to email me with feedback—and be sure to pick up the March 2020 print edition.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Chuck Braman Thursday, 27 February 2020 15:43 posted by Chuck Braman

    Actually … AB 5 was NOT needed. And it was executed exactly as it was written and intended.

    Uber drivers neither "need" nor want "protection" from the companies that make their livelihood possible, any more than traditional freelancers "need" or want "protection from their clients.

    This law needs to be repealed in full, and it needs to be stopped from passing elsewhere.

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