Freelancers Are Fighting AB 5 Bill

Bill Pearl

Freelance workers in various professions, including musicians, artists, caterers and writers, have called for a repeal or at minimum tweaks and amendments to AB 5, the 2019 “gig economy” bill. The measure, enacted with the “yes” votes of all of Long Beach’s Sacramento lawmakers and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, requires those who hire freelance workers to treat many of them as employees (subject to costly and complex Calif. labor laws and regulations) instead of as more flexible independent contractors.

Supporters of AB 5 include organized labor representatives, who say the bill protects workers by preventing those who hire them from misclassifying them as independent contractors, denying them the benefits of California labor laws and regulations.

On social networks, a “Freelancers Against AB 5” Facebook page has grown to over 15,000 members crossing traditional political lines. In multiple postings, workers detail circumstances in which AB 5 has cost them jobs, reduced their income and in some cases jeopardized their livelihood.

Among those who voted to enact AB 5 were LB-area Assembly members Patrick O’Donnell, Mike Gipson, Speaker Anthony Rendon and state Senators Lena Gonzalez and Tom Umberg.

The issue has now percolated into the U.S. presidential campaign. Four days after the Calif. primary, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President/former Senator Joe Biden Tweeted his support for AB 5. “I support #AB5 in California, which will give workers the dignity they deserve in the workplace. I agree with @transportworker that we can’t let corporations undermine basic rights by adding these exemptions to ground-breaking legislation.”

Biden’s Tweet triggered prompt pushback on his own campaign’s Twitter page. Some examples:

“My mom either loses her income or is forced to move out of CA to keep a 30-year career as an independent contractor, due to AB 5. She’s 6th generation, Calif. born. You just lost our votes. For the first time in my life I voted red. I felt sick to my stomach”

“COME ON. I want to vote for you, man. You’re supposed to be the sane one. Don’t put independent contractors out of business. We’re not exploited workers. We’re business owners.”

“You are supporting a law that is devastating California! Writers, photographers, videographers, translators, indie musicians, special ed teachers, specialists of any kind have lost their livelihoods! Even the Dem lawmakers know it’s a mistake.”

Among the more outspoken locally against AB 5 has been Dana Buchanan, co-owner (with Chef Paul Buchanan) of LB’s Primal Alchemy Catering. As to Senator Biden’s stance, Lakewood Village resident Lauren Boland (owner of downtown LB’s LBL Mortgage) commented on’s Facebook page: “Ahhhh Man!!! I want to love you but you’re killing me!!!”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, the former California co-chair for Kamala Harris’ former presidential campaign who’s now endorsed Biden has been mum on AB 5. So have LB Council incumbents, none of whom have agendized a council item to take a position on various bills that have been introduced to amend or repeal AB 5.

On Feb. 27, Assembly Democrats derailed an effort by Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley to allow an immediate Assembly floor vote (before Assembly committee hearings) on AB 1928, a bill Kiley introduced that would suspend enforcement of AB 5 until Sacramento lawmakers act on the now pending bills. The outcome of that floor vote wasn’t even close.

On a lopsided party-line 15-55 vote, the Assembly voted against taking up AB 1928. Among those voting “no” were LB-area Assembly members O’Donnell, Gipson and Rendon. AB 1928 currently remains in the Assembly committee that hasn’t yet scheduled a hearing on it. A number of other bills by other state lawmakers that propose tweaks/amendments/exceptions to AB 5 also remain pending.

AB 5’s primary author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher (D, San Diego) has defended AB 5 but offered tweaks/amendments she’d accept to her bill. Gonzalez Fletcher, re-elected in early March with over 70% of the vote in a San Diego district, has announced that she’s a candidate for CA Secretary of State in 2022.

Governor Newsom’s proposed FY21 state budget asks state lawmakers to allocate $21 million for investigations and enforcement of AB 5 (meaning state Senators and Assembly members will cast votes on this on or before June 30, 2020

Bill Pearl publishes, now in its 20th year online at


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