It will be about former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) wanting to confiscateAmericans’ guns and restrict religious freedom. It will be about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) choosing what kind of health insurance you can have and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) telling you what kind of car you must drive and demanding that Facebook curtail free speech.
It will be about the freedom to work as much as you choose, when you choose and for whom you choose.
The liberal media until now has largely supported these Democrat-led assaults on our freedoms. But suddenly they see themselves threatened by the very kinds of rules and restrictions that so delight leftwing politicians like Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). And they don’t like it much.
All politics may not be local, but political awakenings appear to be extremely personal. Just as big government enthusiasts in their twenties veer more conservative when they see how much they pay in taxes, journalists are now up in arms at efforts to restrict their livelihoods.
The state of California recently adopted a law, Assembly Bill 5, signed by Governor Newsom in September, that severely cripples so-called “gig” enterprises. Imagine the shock when journalists discovered that it wasn’t only Lyft drivers who were losing the freedom to work as they choose; writers, too, have fallen under the regulatory guillotine.
It turns out that in defining what constitutes “freelancers,” as compared to employees, bureaucrats can be arbitrary and create rules that crimp individual choices. In codifying and implementing the new California bill, the regulatory wizards have determined that anyone writing more than 35 pieces a year is an employee, not a freelancer.
The difference has everything to do with money. Companies operating in California have to abide by copious rules governing employees, such as those setting minimum wage, workers’ compensation, overtime and guaranteed leave, just for starters. The state has imposed such a burden on employers that many firms have left the state.
The burden on job-creators is so extreme that Chief Executive Magazine ranks California as the worst state in the entire union to do business. Dead last.
The upshot of the new rules on journalists, of course, is that hard-up publishers are laying off or restricting some writers’ contributions rather than pay the extra burden demanded for a full-time employee.
A piece from the Columbia School of Journalism cites several journalists who have breached the 35-piece limit in recent years; not one expects to be hired full time by the paper or site they work for. Instead, their output (and their income) will be curtailed.
For example, Zac Estrada, a writer for several publications on auto and tech issues, used to provide one group with 50 items per month. One outfit has cut Estrada off in response to the new rules. He is quoted saying, “I’m glad the state of California is looking out for workplace issues and benefits, but I don’t see a way this bill helps me. A lot of people I know love freelancing and wouldn’t take a full-time job even if it offered them more money.”
Erin Biba, a freelance writer for the BBC and NBC, among other groups, tweeted about the new rule, “One note is that many of us DON’T WANT to become employees. Because of health circumstances, life circumstances, or lifestyle choices, we have chosen the freedom not to be tied to one single employer.”
That’s the point. The same could be said for Uber drivers, many of whom want to work when and as much as they want. Those people, like the journalists, are no longer free to do what they choose.
Those freedoms have been sacrificed supposedly to help workers, but they are actually being abridged by politicians in thrall to labor unions. The California Labor Federation, with the help of journalists’ unions, cooked up Assembly Bill 5, working with San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez. The list of Gonzalez’ top backers reads like a who’s who of Big Labor, and includes the SEIU, the California Federation of Teachers and others.
It is a cozy arrangement, because not only are the Teamsters, for instance, eager to organize Lyft drivers, but California’s liberal politicians are also hungry for the increased tax and fee revenues that come from firms classifying workers as employees.
The California court, in deciding the case that underpins Assembly Bill 5, noted that state and federal regulatory agencies “have declared that the misclassification of workers as independent contractors rather than employees is a very serious problem, depriving federal and state governments of billions of dollars in tax revenue…”
There you have it. Uber drivers and journalists cannot supplement their income as they choose, because greedy state and federal regulators need more revenue, and labor unions need to rebuild their ranks.
When Americans go to vote next year, they need to connect these dots. Assembly Bill 5 may seem a relatively small matter that pertains only to the Golden State. But we have seen how legislation in California, like smoke from their forest fires, inevitably drifts over the nation.
If voters allow legislators to stomp on workers’ freedoms, what will be next? The grandiose Green New Deal, which excites those worried about climate change, essentially enables control over how we choose to live and travel, and even what food we eat.
That is what will be on the ballot next year. Let’s hope that Americans will choose freedom; the future success of the United States depends on it.
Published on The Hill