Looming CA Law to 'Regulate Away' Many Freelance Jobs, Sponsor Says They 'Were Never Good Jobs' At All

P. Gardner Goldsmith | December 25, 2019
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One of the most important lessons in economics is to learn that human valuation is subjective. As a result, the only way we can find out how much people value things is if we allow them to be free to buy or sell them at prices they determine. All of supply and demand are based on that freedom.

One of the key lessons in ethics is the Golden Rule, or Non-Aggression Principle, which includes both the Golden Rule and its variation: Do unto others as you would have them to unto you, and do not do unto others as you would not want them to do unto you.

People who understand economics and ethics know that both of these principles are tied to each other. In fact, they are one-and-the-same, rendering down to a simple edict:

Don’t be a jerk.

But numerous politicians in the California Assembly seem to think that once they are elected, they can simply disregard this principle, and tell other people how to live and work.

And so we see the looming implementation of the new statute called AB 5, which, because these said same politicians want to force business owners to hand out health insurance to more people, will mandate that any freelance writers creating 35 pieces or more per year for an employer must be categorized as full-time employees.

Voila! Health insurance!

Or, if one lives in reality: Voila! Fewer freelance jobs! Fewer freelance writers living in California! Which is precisely where things are heading, as Billy Binion reports for Reason:

A nonprofit legal foundation is suing California on behalf of freelance workers who say the state's recently passed Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) will destroy their livelihoods.

What’s in the offing for many freelancers?

The bill's pending implementation has wreaked havoc on publications that rely heavily on California freelancers. Just last week, Vox Media announced it will not be renewing the contracts of around 200 journalists who write for the sports website SB Nation. Instead, the company will replace many of those contractors with 20 part-time and full-time employees. Rev, which provides transcription services, and Scripted, which connects freelance copywriters with people who need their services, also notified their California contractors that they would no longer give them work. 

And says Alisha Grauso, co-leader of the group California Freelance Writers United (CAFWU):

Companies can simply blacklist California writers and work with writers in other states, and that's exactly what's happening… I don’t blame them.

Absolutely stunning. But, with all the charm of a Grinch on Mount Crumpet, Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the mastermind behind AB 5 Tweeted this to anyone who might possibly find her decision to control them a bit offensive:

I'm sure some legit freelancers lost substantial income, and I empathize with that especially this time of year. But Vox is a vulture.

What a sweetie. Apart from the fact that she appears to need an editor to explain to her the difference between the words “empathize” and “sympathize,” she shows such contempt for a business that she seems to have no problem telling its owners how to run it. You know how that goes. Happens all the time. You waltz into a shop, find it not to your liking, and then threaten the owner with fines, total shut-down, and a trip to jail at the hands of armed agents of the state godhead if they don’t comply.

Golden Rule. Totally.

And in case anyone were confused, Binion notes this priceless gem:

'These were never good jobs,' Gonzalez said earlier this month. 'No one has ever suggested that, even freelancers.'

freeIf you’re shaking your head, you’re not alone.

‘I've been able to earn nearly three times the amount I did working a day job, doing what I absolutely love, and having more to volunteer and spend time with loved ones,’ wrote Jackie Lam, a financial journalist. Kelly Butler, a freelance copywriter, echoed those sentiments. ‘Thousands of CA female freelancer writers, single moms, minorities, stand to lose their livelihood due to this bill,’ she said. ‘I was told by a client because I live in CA they can't use me. I made $20K from them this year.’

And for those who are all hopped-up on gender sensitivity, Grauso notes that this CA statute will really harm women, who comprise 72.3 percent of their organization and who find particular advantages in freelance writing.

‘(F)reelancing allows women to be stay-at-home mothers or to care for an aging parent,’ Grauso notes. ‘Being made employees kills their flexibility and ability to be home when needed. I cannot stress enough how anti-women this bill is.’ 

Yet this bill passed in supposedly “progressive” California’s glorious Assembly and will be an enforceable statute, unless the CAFWU can spend enough time and money in court appealing to politically-appointed judges to emerge victorious.

The suit, brought by Pacific Legal Foundation on CAFWU’s behalf, notes Binion, declares:

‘By enforcing the 35-submission limit, Defendant, acting under color of state law, unconstitutionally deprives Plaintiffs' members of their freedom of speech as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.’

And this is spot-on. But this statue also completely breaches the Contract Clause of the US Constitution, which is found in Article I, Section Ten, Clause I, and reads:

‘No state shall pass any Law impairing the obligation of contracts.’

This applies to freelancers who have contracts of any kind, including verbal agreements, with employers, and it also applies to all employment agreements, including wages. If the Contract Clause were respected in contemporary US politics, not only would AB 5 be gone, minimum wage laws could not apply to most standing employees, new “safety” mandates could not be forced on businesses, many licensing statutes would be history, and, well, shoot, politicians might stand a tiny bit closer to operating by the Golden Rule.

They can never get there, because they’re politicians who operate through government, and government is, by definition, a violation of the Golden Rule because it exists through force and tax theft. But, to quote the Beach Boys, “wouldn’t it be nice” to see at least that kind of behavior on the part of people like Assemblywoman Gonzalez?

We can dream, even as we avoid some of the swear-peppered nonsense she added to another Tweet to defend her arrogant assault on peaceful businesses and note that another incredibly authentic, peace-loving politician named Senator Elizabeth Warren is on her side.

Yes. We can dream. And we can learn – about how the US Constitution is supposed to operate, and how people like Assemblywoman Gonzalez and Liz Warren hold the sanctity of free association and free trade in absolute contempt.

(Cover Photo: Pixabay / StockPhotos)