Ronald Reagan once quipped, “Hi. We’re from the government and we’re here to help.” He was being sarcastic, but for many small businesses and individuals that sarcasm was especially well founded this week.
Our legislators, in their infinite wisdom, passed Assembly Bill 5 and Governor Newsom has signed it into law. As of January, the bill drastically changes who can can be designated as an independent contractor. Freelance journalists, editors, photographers, and cartoonists like myself will now be required to be employees with benefits if we provide more than 35 submissions per year. Currently, I submit 104 during the course of the year.
So why am I complaining? Should I not be grateful to our esteemed representatives for gifting me with additional income and benefits?
I figure there are maybe a dozen cartoonists in California who regularly submit cartoons to small daily and weekly newspapers and are compensated with a small check every week or month. None of us survive on it. It’s just a part of what we do to get by. Most of those publications are barely surviving the shift to online news, which is either free or available for a small subscription fee.
When AB5 is enacted come January, my paycheck will be slashed by two-thirds. Thanks, Democrats.
And the thing that is most galling is the list of workers who will be exempted or given several years to get ready for the rule change. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, engineers, private investigators, investment agents, fine artists, graphic designers, salespeople, realtors, manicurists, electrologists and barbers, among others, will not feel the pinch, for now. I guess the Democrats couldn’t afford to piss off their entire base.
They also put the screws to small studios and record labels, who routinely use sidemen as contracted workers. Many will just go to cash payments under the table, and others will just go elsewhere to record.
That’s not going to fly with most newspapers. So my future with The Union is somewhat up in the air for now. Too bad. I was hoping to go on the road with a new book next year, but I may have to start cutting back on those plans.
If nothing else, this situation reminds me why I changed my registration from Democrat to independent eighteen years ago. Maybe someday those of us stuck in the middle of this war of halfwit extremist politics will wise up and find a new fair way to govern.
The good news is, with legislation like this, our numbers will grow.
AB5 takes aim at paper carriers, the people newspapers depend on to get the news to your doorstep. The newspapers got a slight reprieve by getting a waiver to put off the change for a year. Not so with freelancers. You can pretty much guarantee that there will be far fewer weekly columnists and cartoonists once AB5 kicks in… https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/California-bill-to-support-journalism-hangs-in-14432839.php?psid=nYiTV
How did something so undemocratic sleeze past us …? I had no idea this freedom chocking bill was in the air….Our Governor , who has made protective decisions for ca. in the past has just changed the playing field for so many creative and hardworking middle Californians. Shame on him and shame on us for not protesting this bill that kills our freedoms and limits our choices.
While I agree wholeheartedly with many of the points you’ve made here, (especially since we both switched to independent nearly two decades ago), I do take issue with your claim that “AB5 takes aim at paper carriers.” Uber and Lyft, (and the subsequent $8 billion in unpaid taxes), are the main targets of this legislation. Everyone else, from doctors to independent truckers, that generate large amounts of capital and political pressure, is, or will be, exempt. Unfortunately, cartoonists and news paper carriers are not in that group.
I have long supported not only unions, which have been devastated since the days of Reagan, but have also argued consistently that any business model which utilizes low compensation for labor to generate it’s profits is a dishonest venture in capitalism. The major problem with today’s economy, in my mind, is that labor has fallen by the wayside when it comes to sharing in the profits they help generate, mainly due to the top echelon reaping over 400 times what the average worker of a company makes. “U.S. CEOs earn from 400 to 500 times the median salary for workers. For CEOs in the U.K., the ratio is 22; in France, it’s 15; and in Germany it’s 12.” https://work.chron.com/ceo-compensation-vs-world-15509.html
But also, simply in my pea-brain opinion, newspapers are one of those enterprises for which the writing is on the wall, (or computer screen, more accurately). Like fossil fuels, their time has come and gone and they will only hang on as long as their lagging audience holds out for physical contact, much like books and Kindles. Your talents will always be in demand and can be and are, obviously, translatable to the new net reality, but not so much for the people who deliver bundles of scripts to households. (You could, supposedly, generate income merely by allowing advertisers here on your blog.)
All that being said, and in consideration of your comment that you stand to lose 2/3 of that income due to inclusion in the corporate structure, I can’t help but wonder just how much I would have made over the years, had I been paid 2/3 more for doing the same jobs. According to my Social Security read out, I would have been a millionaire more than 20 times over. (I know that’s an absurd comparison, which I do only for levity.)
Ah well. Hang in there, my friend, there are many of us who will support whatever form your talents allow.
For some reason, many people seem to suffer the delusion that because I don’t have payroll taxes taken out of my check I don’t pay my share. Let me tell you, I paid a big chunk of my income to Uncle Sam, and another chunk to Uncle Gavin for sales tax.
A- I certainly didn’t suggest that you don’t pay your fair share.
B- here’s a good read, for anyone who thinks AB5 will change anything at all:
And C- the fight is over the taxes that Uber and Lyft do not pay. They both claim to be merely platforms that others use to coordinate their businesses, therefore they only have in-house employees. The state claims that the drivers are employees, and all that comes with that designation must apply. Cartoonists and newspaper delivery persons are merely collateral damage in legislation aimed at other enterprises.
In the end, there will be zero changes, as in the ineffectual Massachusetts law that has been on the books since 2012 using the same criterion. Much ado about nothing.
Interestingly, I have found that, even though the MA legislation in 2012 has not changed Uber and Lyft employee status, as was the intent, it did change the law regarding newspaper delivery workers to employee status, (and one can assume cartoonists, also). So, once again, the little guys get screwed in a war against the big boys.
It’s a typical unfathomable California law, Chris. By my reading of the ABC test, I pass A (Nobody tells me what to draw) and C (I am in an independent trade) but am tripped up by B (The worker must perform work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.) Editorial cartoonery has been tied to newsprint for hundreds of years. Now as an independent tradesman who sells similar services to other entities, I should be exempt, except for B. And who came up with the arbitrary number of 35 submissions per year?
I don’t know how this will shake out come January, but I do know it pisses me off, and when a cartoonist is pissed off he (or she, or “they” as the gender may be) willusually do their best work. My drawing hand is itchy.
I tried to email this post to Assemblyperson Gonzalez, but as soon as I typed in my zip code, my message was rejected because I don’t live in her district. Funny how she can legislate laws that affect the entire state, but only listens to her own people… https://calmatters.org/multimedia/2019/09/lorena-gonzalez-lawmaker-labor-gig-economy-law-california-deciders-ab5/
I have many friends who left California due to the costs of living and doing business in California. It’s only getting worse… https://calmatters.org/commentary/costs-taxes-california-tipping-point/?utm_source=CALmatters%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=0b46964bfa-WHATMATTERS_NEWSLETTER&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_faa7be558d-0b46964bfa-150181761&mc_cid=0b46964bfa&mc_eid=c59355ace0
More collateral damage from AB5… https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-09-22/skelton-ab5-employment-law-independent-contractors-gig-economy
While I again agree with many of the points made in the article, blaming this ill-advised law on unions is a rather cheap shot. Several of the folks commenting on it ran with the thought, claiming it was a move by the socialist, nanny-state, spearheaded by the likes of Soros and all. Bullshit.
The CA Supreme Court forced the legislature to act and when they did, they blew it, bad. The proposal that somehow the unions forced the CA SC to make that decision is ludicrous. This was just another proof laid bare that legislators are simply fellow humans who poke themselves in the eye from time to time and then claim, “I meant to do that.”
The people who weren’t exempted may not have the clout of doctors and lawyers, but they are a much larger group than was imagined and changes will have to be made.
I thought you might find this article and the statistics in it interesting. https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Converting-from-contractor-to-employee-has-14493570.php
Thanks, but I’ve read my limit of Chron articles for the month and can’t see it.
Lorena Gonzalez and her cohorts must have had a contest to see how many people they could fuck out of a job with one bill… https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/everybody-is-freaking-freelance-writers-scramble-make-sense-new-california-law-1248195
This woman obviously has no concept of the damage she has done… https://www.searchenginejournal.com/california-law-freelance-journalists/331367/?fbclid=IwAR2zTqzq_iITLx5aPb-YgDLeapbC0SOJe8oS-d9EXju0vAEXmmolcaGjHQY#close