Governor Gavin Newsom is known for his outspoken stances. But when it comes to Assembly Bill 5, he is not so brash.
Currently in the Senate, this piece of legislation would make it harder for companies like Uber and Lyft to classify drivers as independent contractors as opposed to employees. Despite seeming like an insignificant status change, this bill would provide the workers with protections and benefits, such as unemployment insurance, healthcare, paid parental leave, overtime pay, and minimum wage. And of course, corporations are not happy about the proposed sealing of former loopholes.
Ride-sharing app companies have been doing everything in their power to keep workers under independent contractor status, as a way of circumventing labor laws, both state and federal. Uber, for one, bases its profit model on the money saved through skirting those regulations. For over six years, Uber drivers have been fighting the classification in court to no avail. AB 5 would change all of that for thousands of Californians.
But to Newsom, it represents the clash of two constituencies. He now has to straddle the two sides: the tech leaders, who are longtime supporters, and organized labor, which has donated millions to his gubernatorial campaign.
Unwilling to separate political expediency and the rewards of catering to big businesses from the right path forward, Newsom doesn’t seem to have come up with a solution to this personal dilemma. On The Chronicle’s “It’s All Political” podcast, Newsom dodged the question repeatedly. “We’re going to have to address this issue beyond Uber and Lyft,” he admitted. But when pushed, he said, “this is an interim conversation.”
When asked a second time, he responded with the question itself: “Therein lies the vexing question: How do we balance on that?”
I don’t know, how do we, Governor?