Written by Michael Palomba
The “Right to Earn a Living Act,” introduced by Assembly Members Kevin Kiley and Melissa Melendez and co-authored by several other Republicans, would overturn Assembly Bill 5 to protect the gig economy and workers’ rights while preventing employment discrimination.
AB 5, authored by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, requires independent contractors to be reclassified as typical employees. This makes make them eligible for things like overtime pay and a minimum hourly wage, but removes a lot of flexibility and perks that come with being an independent contractor.
One of the most heavily affected industries is ride-sharing/food delivery. This includes companies like Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Doordash, and many others. Drivers for these companies are currently classified as independent contractors. But under AB 5, they are required to be classified as employees, which drastically changes how these people can work.
For example, being eligible for overtime pay likely means that companies will have to limit the amount of time drivers can work. Previously, there were no limits and drivers were free to work as much or as little as they pleased. AB 5 also means that companies may need to hold drivers to a typical work schedule, removing the flexibility that allowed so many drivers to work in the first place.
Uber, Lyft, and Postmates have refused to comply with the new law and have pledged tens of millions of dollars to fight it in court.
It’s important to note that no one is forced to be an independent contractor. All AB 5 does is remove an individual’s personal freedom to choose how and when they want to utilize their labor. Government limiting individual liberty is something that is becoming more and more common in San Diego.
State Senator Brian Jones also made a statement regarding the Act: “Hardworking Californians should have the basic right to decide if they want to be an independent contractor or in a traditional employer-employee arrangement. If the employer and the worker jointly agree to flexible work hours or unconventional work settings, the government should keep its nose out of it.”
The future of AB 5 remains unclear, but it’s evident that Republican leadership is willing to do whatever it takes to repeal the horrific legislation and restore workers’ autonomy.