Opinion / Politics

This California Law Is Ripping Away American Dreams. The Left Wants to Take It Nationwide.

californiaFluent in English, Spanish, and sign language, Sophia Aguirre has worked as an interpreter for 30 years.

Whether it’s serving as a translator for video programs that enable the hearing-impaired to communicate by phone, or teaching American Sign Language to deaf children in their homes, Aguirre has helped countless Americans engage in daily life.

For them, there’s no question that her work is “essential.” But since January, Aguirre has struggled to maintain employment.

While COVID-19 hasn’t helped, the real obstacle is a new California law: Assembly Bill 5. The measure, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year, is so notorious that in the Golden State, it’s known simply as “AB5.”

Despite mounting pushback in California, Democrats want to take it nationwide, passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act—dubbed the PRO Act—through the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.

“AB5 will not only disrupt my life; it will destroy my life,” Aguirre said of the measure. “It will devastate me.”

Aguirre says that she’s never faced the “workers’ rights” issues that AB5 claims to fix. (Photo: Sophia Aguirre/IWF)

Since AB5 took effect in California on Jan. 1, Aguirre said, agencies have been hesitant to hire her for translating work. Uncertain of AB5’s new terms, companies now view independent contractors as a risk.

“Instead of being an asset to them, we’re a liability,” she said.

As a result, Aguirre’s income has been slashed.

The Story Behind AB5

In essence, AB5 requires companies to reclassify “gig” workers as full-time employees. It was designed to target the gig economy; specifically, companies such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, which rely on thousands of independent contractors to provide their services. In exchange for flexible hours and the ability to come and go as they please, these workers forgo benefits such as health insurance, sick leave, and more.

Proponents of the measure argue that by severely regulating the type and scale of work independent contractors are allowed to perform, employers will be forced to hire them as full-time employees with benefits. However good the intentions were, in practice, AB5 has put independent contractors and small businesses out of work.

AB5 mandates three strict conditions that employers must meet in order to classify a worker as an independent contractor, rather than as an employee. One condition that has been particularly problematic for independent contractors requires that they perform “work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.”

That means that if Aguirre is acting as an interpreter for more than a few hours at a company that enables people with hearing disabilities to communicate over the phone, she now must be fully employed by that company instead of being an independent contractor who can set her own hours.

In addition to hurting her pocketbook, the policy hurts Aguirre personally. A single mom with two sons, she values flexibility over benefits or a salaried paycheck. Like many Californians, she’s an independent contractor by choice.

Taking Away a Yogi’s Flexibility

A traditional 9-to-5 job also never made sense for 54-year-old Jennifer O’Connell. A writer, yoga instructor, and career-reinvention coach, she prefers taking on an assortment of projects, rather than just one.

“It didn’t matter what time I did work, because I was talking to schools across the world,” she said. “That allowed me flexibility during my day to go teach my regular [yoga] classes for my part-time W-2 job and then come back and maybe work on an article, do interviews, or work on yoga certifications.”

Jennifer O’Connell says because of AB5, her life has been drastically altered. (Photo: O’Connell/IWF)

Because of AB5, O’Connell said gyms and yoga studios can no longer hire her for occasional anatomy lectures anymore.

“They are moving training online, and that affects people like me who would go around and do lectures,” she said. “The small mom-and-pop studios aren’t going to open their doors again.”

The implications for O’Connell’s career have been so bad that she and her husband briefly considered leaving the state. But instead of leaving, O’Connell is fighting back, hoping that lawmakers and the constituents who vote for them hear her story and finally listen.

“Hopefully, the temperature of the electorate is very much tired of this kind of stuff,” she said. “If we stay loud and vocal, it could very well turn the presidential election, or at least influence it.”

A Writer’s Lost Dreams

JoBeth McDaniel doesn’t know O’Connell or Aguirre, but she can identify with their stories. A California freelance writer, McDaniel has enjoyed the perks of working for herself, since it helped pay her way through college in the 1980s. Her byline has been published in Life, AARP Magazine, Hearst Magazines, The New York Times, USA Today, and more.

In pursuing a career as an independent contractor, McDaniel creates and manages her own schedule, and avoids a three-hour commute in busy Los Angeles County. She doesn’t have to request time off for the doctor, to take a vacation, or when she wanted to care for her dying father. Traditional benefits aren’t something she wants or needs.

“There are all these very adult decisions that are at play when you freelance,” McDaniel said. “AB5 pretends that the state knows better than we do in making those decisions.”

As a journalist, McDaniel has been vocal in her opposition to AB5. But journalists, she says, “are just the tip of the iceberg.” (Photo: McDaniel/IWF)

In addition to limiting the amount of writing freelance workers can publish, AB5 brought McDaniel’s passion project to a grinding halt. For years, she’s been working on a book and wanted to produce an accompanying podcast. She paid for podcast training and was prepared to hire independent contractors to help produce and edit her work, but after consulting with lawyers and people in the industry, she concluded that because of AB5, “I just can’t do it right now. The risks are too high.”

That not only leaves McDaniel out of work, but also the contractors she wanted to hire.

“I just stopped all of it,” she says. “It was heartbreaking. I had put so much time into it.”

The Lasting Effects

AB5’s impacts don’t stop there. The measure has hit a variety of occupations: videographers, handymen, musicians, truckers, computer coders, and more. As part of the Chasing Work campaign, the Independent Women’s Forum is highlighting the diverse ways workers are being hurt.

For Aguirre, AB5 will “place me in a different social-economic status,” she said. And that’s not to mention the impact it will have on all those she helps.

O’Connell said that if AB5 isn’t repealed, she’ll lose her flexibility and choice. “They don’t want people having vocational and economic freedom,” she said. “They want you chained to the union. They want to make everyone a class of workers tied to the system.”

For McDaniel, AB5 is taking away her ability to work for herself. It’s “anti-American,” she said. “Self-employment is the American way.”

An estimated 36% of U.S. workers are involved in the gig economy, the vast majority by choice. With an economy now struggling because of COVID-19, the ability to work is more important than ever.

Instead of squeezing workers from the economy, politicians and lawmakers should do the opposite; namely, pursue policies that give Americans more choice, more flexibility, and more opportunities to work.

Reprinted with Permission from - Daily Signal by - Kelsey Bolar

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1 month ago

If California wants the whole nation to be like them, perhaps it is time for them to secede from the United States and become a country of their own making!.
The United States will not have to use our taxpayer dollars to bail them out of their “anti-capitalism” government.

Brenda Blunt
1 month ago

Talk about destroying people’s lives and their independent spirit! The governor needs to be removed so that their citizens can find jobs that they enjoy and work at the times they need to in order to support their family. This is bullying, controlling, and Hilter tactic!!

El gringo viejo
1 month ago

Unfortunately, many rules and regulations dealing with jobs are put in place by people,who,have never held a real job.
And yes, regulation definition is to “choke off”.

1 month ago

Typical of politicians desires to “fix” a problem that doesn’t need fixing and not looking at the long-term effects or consequences.

1 month ago

AB5 caters to the Unions plain and simple! Yellow Cab drivers were Union and because so people paid outrageous taxicab rates. When Uber and Lyft came along they could charge less and were more price competitive than Yellow Cab rates. The Union complained to our Progressively Communist Democratic Governor who panders to All Unions for their votes. By making AB5 affecting ANY Independent Contractor, it forces EVERY industry to be forced to pay “union” level wages because they now had to hire everyone as an employee thus having to pay a “minimum” wage and provide other benefits thus having to… Read more »

Patriot Will
1 month ago

People that are hard-working and energetic often do not mind having several part-time jobs forming a mosaic of ways to make an income. Depending on their interests, they realize that full-time employment with benefits is not a realistic goal. However, AB5 destroys the options for those who are willing to be more flexible — criminal, truly criminal. Hard-working income earners who once were self-sufficient are now being forced to lose their work, because various employers can’t meet the AB5 guidelines. Everyone loses: the workers, the employers, the public, and the economy in general. This is another example of the socialists… Read more »

1 month ago

Freedom is on the ballot in November. States that eliminate small contractors opportunities may be supporting unions. California is crippling the freedom to work before the election.

Harry L. Mallory
1 month ago

You don’t need to work, we will support you & that way you are right under our thumb. When we say jump, all you can do is how high. Just what the Dems want.

McMahan Kelly
1 month ago

It’s the liberal mindset that we are not capable of making these decisions ourselves. The government knows better. CA has been trying for years to do away with independent contractors. We sold our business utilizing ICs over 10 years ago when we saw the writing on the wall. Oh, and moved out of CA.

1 month ago

Democrat’s ability to tax and regulate is just another means to them to destroy our country, our economy, our culture, our political system, even our history. Their party has turned into an out of control anti-American, rabid communist mob bent on destroying the United States via anarchy, and chaos to replace it with a foreign globalist-communist run puppet regime. Reagan inspired American youth to have pride in their country, unite, be bold, optimistic, and be constructive; Obama divided,and instilled them with hatred for their country and its history, made them pessimistic, cynical, fearful, and destructive. Venezuela is just one election… Read more »

Stephen Russell
1 month ago

AB5 hurting those who need jobs, & everyone loses, NO, very scary
Effect all.
Everyone loses .
Remedy & scrap AB5

1 month ago

AB5 is an assault on the basic right to work all Americans have and much more.
AB5 protects nothing, harms workers and employees.
It literally muzzles free speech by government action- a clear violation of the First Amendment.
It will allow the government to shut down music, performance art, worship and so much more.
This is yet another example of how the “progressives” are actually today’s tyrants.

1 month ago

Karl Marx is very vehement in his vision of “””heaven”””: No worker shall do as he or she pleases! every worker will be chained to his or her work. And will receive the exact same salary the next worker receives. Very simple. There is NO single minded business. Maybe, instead of living in “california”, all the smart people should get out of the Rapist and Racist claws of the worthless political idiots who govern the state so poorly. It is sometimes better to evade STUPIDITY, than to fight a lost battle. The taxes are absolutely ignominious. The politics are atrocious.… Read more »

1 month ago

vote them out along with their communist regulations

John A. Fallon
1 month ago

Big brother knows what is best for you, welcome to 1984, Orwell got everything right but the time frame, he forgot to take into consideration LAWYERS need to drag things out, the longer they make a “case” last the more money they make, without reguard to who gets hurt. Lawyers are dems and they should NOT be allowed to be lawmakers, big time conflict of interest. We need more WORKING people to represent us to level the playing field and get AMERICA BACK. PRESIDENT TRUMP is the perfect example, he is NOT a politician, look what he accomplished in his… Read more »

1 month ago

Sucks to live in California! Get out while you can! Before they close the borders!

Dennis mahood
1 month ago

Get ready because if Biden wins your next president will be from California and your VP will be from California Harris and Pelosi , cause Biden won’t last a day.

1 month ago

“Governor” Newscum is a scumbucket.

Press ONE for English
1 month ago

“…has worked…for 30 years.”   Clearly a racist. Don’t take my word for it, no less an august institution than the Smithsonian tells us so.   Seriously, The whole idea here is to get workers organized into trade unions that government can plunder and use to guarantee the re-election of every left wing candidate, no matter how awful.   And this will cause these people to organize, as they have unique needs and expectations that cannot be met by typical wage slave jobs. The article tells us as much. This will inevitably lead to conflict with employers, and that will… Read more »

Morty Tupperman
1 month ago

When will this “trickle down” to gardeners and the day laborers? Never.

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