New York plans to replicate California’s “anti-freelancer” law

The law has already caused Californian freelance writers to lose work.


In their apparent push to gain some quick and easy political points by appearing to be responsive to systemic wrongs in the so-called gig economy – some politicians in a year of elections in the United States seem perfectly happy to appear to be improving the position of those who are often in the news as the “victim.”

But what if they might at the same time be throwing every other less visible “victim” of the same system – directly under the bus?

The “lucky ones” benefiting from the new rules in California would be the likes of Uber drivers – while at the same time, the same legislators look comfortable to destroy the livelihoods of every other, less “news-worthy” freelancer/independent contractor out there in the state.

California's new labor law – Assembly Bill 5 (#AB5) that is now in effect – says its goal is to change the gig economy for the better, to allow benefits to previously disenfranchised “gig workers.”

But by mandating that everybody gainfully employed in California must either be a full-time employee, or register their own business – the tone-deaf bill ended up producing massive layoffs in those parts of the “gig economy” that are not as “news sexy” as hating on Uber.

So who knew that employers wouldn't just wake up offering their California-based freelancers “full time benefits.” Instead – they wound up firing them.

In a carefully crafted statement cited by Hollywood Reporter Vox Media could still not avoid telling the truth: the publisher is now ending contracts with most California freelance writers.

That's right – taking away a freelancer's right in California to earn their wage in any way they choose, is now sold as “protecting them from exploitation.”

But are other US states buying any of this? They may be – and keep in mind, it's an election year. So from California, where the #AB5 was introduced by California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, and endorsed by Governor Gavin Newsom, both Democrats – we go to the other coast, all the way to New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo apparently thinks this ill-thought-out and poorly-if-at-all-publicly debated solution might be – a good idea?

“Today's economy works brilliantly for innovators, shareholders, and billionaires, but it abuses workers,” Cuomo said.

“This year more than 40 percent of the workforce will be in jobs related to the new gig economy – an economy which has spurred growth and many innovations, but which excludes many workers from the progress of fair pay and benefits,” Cuomo said.

That's a compelling argument on the face of it. But just a little context displaces it entirely. Against Cuomo's “40% of the workforce in the gig economy jobs” – how about considering the economic data that says “the richest 1% still own 45% of the world's wealth.”

Looks like the “gig economy” laws really work to further disenfranchise lower and middle classes – while being cynically misrepresented as progressive for purely political reasons.


Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]