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California Lawmaker On Struggling Independent Contractors: Frustrated Labor Law Took Their ‘Lollipop’
A driver wearing a protective face covering drives a car displaying Uber Technologies signage on California Street in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, May 4, 2020. Lyft Inc. withdrew its profit and revenue forecasts for 2020, following rival Uber Technologies Inc. in citing evolving and unpredictable impacts from Covid-19.
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty images

During a California Senate committee hearing on Thursday to discuss new legislation that would affect labor law AB5, which codifies a state supreme court decision requiring many independent contractors and gig workers to be classified as employees, California Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson remarked that some workers were frustrated with the law because it took away their “lollipop.”

Leading up to the remarks, Jackson maintained that some of the frustrations over the labor law, which went into effect this year, were actually misplaced.

“Employers don’t want to abide by the various laws and protections that we have in place for workers,” said Jackson. “So when people say they’ve lost their jobs, that isn’t actually correct, I do not believe.”

“What I do think is part of the problem, is that employers have the ability to hire, they just don’t want to,” said the senator, who added that some workers, such as freelance musicians, writers and translators, “legitimately have their own business.”

Jackson later indicated she acknowledges that some workers are frustrated with the changes, and suggested that they were previously under the false impression they were independent contractors, but now had their “lollipop” taken from them.

“It’s kind of taking away the lollipop that they had, the ability to decide essentially when they worked, but the fact is that they had no protections when they worked,” said Jackson. “It’s my hope that as we continue the discussion, that we can find that sweet spot, protecting workers, protecting employees, at the same time encouraging employers to hire people, which they have every ability to do.”

The Daily Wire reached out to Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s office via email to clarify the message she intended to send with her “lollipop” example, which was first reported on by Red State. The senator’s office has not responded to the request for comment as of publication.

State Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove, a prominent voice against AB5, told The Daily Wire in an emailed statement that Jackson’s remarks were the “perfect example of the arrogant Democrat philosophy that believes government knows what’s best for everyone.”

“One party rule has plagued our state for far too long. This is a perfect example of the arrogant Democrat philosophy that believes government knows what’s best for everyone. Independent contractors are not children complaining about their candy being taken away. They are adults that have been stripped of the ability to make a living and provide for their families due to AB5,” said Grove in a statement. 

Earlier in the Thursday hearing, Grove made the case for SB806, a law that would immediately reverse the changes enacted through AB5, which was passed last year.

“Let us not forget the millions of Californians who choose to work as independent contractors,” said Grove. “They’re the single moms who use an Uber app to drive while their kids are at school, the college student who works after class to afford the high cost of housing in this state.”

During the committee hearing, Grove also suggested that the coronavirus pandemic has made fixing the problems in AB5 particularly essential: “The one thing that this crisis made clear is that the workforce needs flexibility.”

Grove’s legislation failed to leave the labor committee. Republican state Senator John Moorlach’s proposal to suspend AB5 until 2022 also failed.

Described by author Assemblymember Lorena Gonzales as “bold,” AB5 has been the subject of intense scrutiny from freelancers, gig workers, and some of the most prominent companies that employ them.

Earlier this month, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, two companies that have pushed back against the law and promised to spend millions of dollars fighting it.

“Californians who drive for Uber and Lyft lack basic worker protections — from paid sick leave to the right to overtime pay,” said the California Attorney General in a statement. “Sometimes it takes a pandemic to shake us into realizing what that really means and who suffers the consequences. Uber and Lyft drivers who contract the coronavirus or lose their job quickly realize what they’re missing,” he said.

In response to the lawsuit, Uber criticized the attorney general and other officials for making it harder to work during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a statement obtained by NBC News.

“At a time when California’s economy is in crisis with four million people out of work, we need to make it easier, not harder, for people to quickly start earning. We will contest this action in court, while at the same time pushing to raise the standard of independent work for drivers in California, including with guaranteed minimum earnings and new benefits,” said the ride-sharing company.

Last summer, former Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who recently served as an advisor for Lyft, also spoke out against the law, arguing in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle that the law threatened the freedom and flexibility many gig workers have come to rely on.

I met a dad who stays at home with his children while his wife works during the day. He drives when she’s at home. Sometimes that’s at 6 p.m., sometimes at 1 a.m., or sometimes not at all.

I met a loving daughter who takes care of her aging, fragile mom. She drives when “Mom is having a good day.” She never knows in advance when that day or that hour will be.

Senator Grove made similar remarks during an interview in February, noting that the three-part ABC test, which designates when a worker can and cannot be considered an employee of a company, made AB5 “almost impossible to comply with.”

“It restricts worker freedom, it stops freelance work, it stops independent contractor work, because the B-prong in AB5 is almost impossible to comply with,” said Grove.

Under the B-prong, if an employer cannot prove a worker performs tasks outside the company’s usual course of business, then the employer must designate the worker as an employee who is subject to California’s stringent labor laws, protections, and regulations.

As The Daily Wire has previously reported, Assemblymember Gonzales has made contentious claims about the people who say that forcing companies to comply with the law has put them out of work.

During an interview with KUSI-TV in San Diego, Gonzales said that there is “no indication that there are thousands of people out of work.” After the anchors confronted the lawmaker about the fact that Vox Media laid off 200 freelancers in light of the law, Gonzales denied it.

“First of all, it wasn’t a job. These aren’t jobs. These are freelance positions that may be three hours a month, and it may be three-hundred hours a month,” said Gonzales.

“I’ll tell you, there are two-hundred folks who were writing for [them], but they weren’t writing full-time, they weren’t writing part-time. These are folks who run the gamut.”

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