If you follow national economic or political news, you’ve probably caught wind of California’s new law — which takes effect this Wednesday — making it more likely that companies will have to treat freelancers as employees for the purposes of employment regulations like the minimum wage and benefits.
One reason this California law has generated so much conversation is that it affects freelance writers. In this regard, the left-wing website Vox has provided the perfect lesson on progressive rhetoric. A September 11, 2019, essay on that site by Alexia Fernandez Campbell places the issue as a win for labor unions and proclaims the headline, “Gig workers’ win in California is a victory for workers everywhere.” Fast-forward a few months, to December 17, and an article in the Los Angeles Times informs readers, “Vox Media cuts hundreds of freelance journalists as AB 5 changes loom.” Those 200 people will be replaced by “20 new part-time and full-time staffers.”
A CNBC article puts things a bit more broadly with the headline, “California’s new employment law has boomeranged and is starting to crush freelancers”:
“I don’t believe legislators realized the impact this had,” says Gene Zaino, founder and executive chairman of MBO Partners, which studies the freelance economy and provides back-office services to freelancers. “This was really designed to create a safety net for people that needed it. Legislators didn’t realize at the same time, they impacted millions of people in thousands of businesses that are using freelancers, even though that was not their intent. A lot of businesses are paralyzed, in terms of ‘everyone needs to be on payroll.'”
Oh, the legislators realized it. They just don’t care. They’ve got their eyes on other prizes than the likes of Mr. Zaino — powerful labor unions and constituencies who think progressive legislators are going to give them more handouts. And progressives realized it, too, but those gig jobs don’t fit their vision and therefore shouldn’t exist because they are institutionalized oppression (or something).
Even those of us who don’t rely on the gig economy should take notice… in a “first they came for the freelancers” sort of way. Progressives are intent on remaking the world according to their erroneous understanding of how the economy ought to work. That will mean you have a decreasing ability to decide what works for you in your life and just have to settle for the deal that government provides for you.