California’s AB5 went into effect at the start of this year, and it has negatively impacted thousands of freelancers and VBOs across the state. Aimed particularly at gig workers like Uber and Lyft Drivers and DoorDash deliverers, who work for these companies primarily as a side hustle, AB5 has harmed many of the freelancers and VBOs in the state, who choose to operate independently as their primary occupation.
Some might say that AB5 was well intentioned. It was crafted to convert most independent contractors into employees in hopes of providing them with the same protections that traditional employees enjoy, things like health care benefits, paid sick leave and vacation time, unemployment insurance, etc. But you know what they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The reality is the vast majority of freelancers and VBOs don’t want to be employees. We trade in paid time off and health insurance for the freedom to set our own schedules, choose who we do business with, avoid oppressive boss supervision and increase our earning potential. Hell, even gig workers, many of whom have a part or full-time traditional job, like the idea of being able to make a little extra money on their own terms during their downtime.
There was nothing really wrong with the gig economy or the freelance economy as it stood, but somehow politicians got to thinking that independent contractors were being exploited in some way. What politicians need to understand is that we choose to work this way. We prefer it, and we don’t want to be forced back into being employees.
Freelancers in California and around the country are not happy with AB5. In fact, they overwhelmingly oppose it. But for some reason, (read: control and revenue) other states — New York, New Jersey and Illinois, for example — are following suit and considering adopting similar laws modeled after AB5 despite all the critiques.
The bill was poorly drafted, rushed through the state legislature and signed into law all too quickly with little regard for its biggest criticisms. The so-called ‘Gig Worker Law’ unfairly targets certain professions, while giving blanket exemptions to high-earning professions like, doctors, lawyers and architects among others, who have the most lobbying power.
Among the unfairly targeted are freelance writers and photographers who, according to the law, are now capped at just 35 submissions per year per publication. It’s an arbitrary number. Some content creators blow through that number in a month. The thinking was that writers and photographers who supply more than the 35-piece maximum should be brought on as employees. In reality, a lot of them have simply been dropped by the media outlets and publishing houses they supplied content to.
AB5 has been bad for freelancers in California, and similar legislation is being considered in the Senate right now. It’s called H.R. 2474, otherwise known as the PRO Act. If passed, freelancers and VBOs across the nation could suffer the same fate as their counterparts in California. This is really bad news because it’s going to impact some of America’s most vulnerable populations: women, the disabled and the elderly.
The fact is the majority of full-time freelancers in the U.S. are women. This could be because women tend to take on caretaking roles that keep them in the house, or they want to avoid the wage gap found in conventional employment. But if the PRO Act is passed, it could end the careers of millions of women across the nation.
Also, a lot of freelancers are disabled or elderly. Perhaps unable to find employment in a conventional setting, people with disabilities look to freelancing as a way to provide income for themselves in the home. And elderly people, who may be retired and face ageism in the workplace, use freelancing to provide them a steady stream of income from the comfort of their homes. These terrible laws could ruin everything for so many people.
To defend the rights of people who choose to work independently and autonomously across America, VBO Nation has launched its Center for VBO Independence. We’re using it to mobilize freelancers and VBOs, business leaders, influencers and media members around our cause. Check it out, get involved, and do your part to make your voice heard. We don’t have to take this terrible legislation coming from our lawmakers. We can fight back. I hope you’ll stand with us.