California Freelancers Disenfranchised by AB 5 Prepare to Vote ‘Yes’ on State Recall

By Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
August 23, 2021 Updated: August 23, 2021

While a California Superior Court judge ruled Proposition 22 as unconstitutional, thousands of freelancers affected by Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) prepare to cast their vote in the gubernatorial recall election on Sept. 14.

Karen Anderson, founder of the Facebook group Freelancers Against AB 5 told The Epoch Times that members who were once Democrat have switched their political stances as the bill impacted their livelihoods.

“People who are affected directly by it, who are longtime Democrats, feel very betrayed by their party,” Anderson said. “Some of them in our group are voting for the recall of Gavin Newsom based solely on the fact that he signed this bill into law.”

AB 5 went into effect in January 2020 and was largely supported by some state lawmakers who aimed to provide benefits for freelancers working for companies such as Lyft. The bill essentially reclassified independent contractors based on a three-pronged test, known as the “ABC Test,” which made it more difficult for businesses to hire gig workers without providing them with full benefits.

However, nearly a year after the bill went into effect, its regulations continue to negatively impact freelancers, leaving them with limited schedule flexibility, freelancers say.

Anderson, who is a freelance photographer, editor, and writer, worries about the day she must commit to taking care of her elderly mother full time. AB 5 makes it difficult for Anderson to provide 24-hour care while being unable to work remotely from her home.

While exemptions to AB 5 have been passed, the fear of not being hired as a freelancer lingers as employment law attorneys warn businesses to stay away from independent contractors in California to avoid potential overlooked penalties if audited, Anderson said.

In 2020, a campaign promoting Prop. 22 succeeded in excluding app-based drivers such as Lyft and Door Dash from AB 5 regulations. Anderson said a common misconception about Prop. 22 is the law exempted multiple types of freelance work from the impacts of AB 5. However, only app-based drivers gained exemptions.

“AB 5 impacts seniors, disabled people, stay-at-home moms, family caregivers like myself, highly paid professionals, health care workers,” she said. “People have been operating as independent contractors for decades just fine and having their careers and their livelihoods just ripped out from under them because of this law.”

With many struggling to land stable gigs, Anderson said freelancers feel like their elected officials have turned their backs on them.

“The Democrat supermajority in Sacramento—there’s not one single incumbent Democrat that has come out against AB 5—not one,” Anderson said. “They all voted against any kinds of amendments to repeal and replace AB 5 with something that was a little more flexible. … We have just as many Democrats in our group, it’s across the spectrum.”

Despite coming across numerous freelancers who have switched their political stance, Anderson has spoken with others who will vote against the removal of Gov. Gavin Newsom because they don’t want to vote for a Republican candidate.

The Epoch Times reached out to Newsom’s office regarding the Superior Court judge’s ruling, but the office didn’t have additional information to share.

Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna