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It’s a new year, but old fights over AB 5 are going strong.
The last Sacramento Report of 2019 was about a federal lawsuit against AB 5 and continued fallout over the new law. The first Sacramento Report of 2020 is about a federal lawsuit against AB 5 and continued fallout over the new law.
The law, like others signed last year, kicked in on Jan. 1.
But before it went into effect, Uber and Postmates filed a legal challenge seeking to block it. It’s the third legal challenge to the law so far, and each makes a different argument about why the measure is improper. The latest argues that it unfairly targets gig economy workers.
The latest challenge – far more than the two before it – directs a good deal of anger and insults toward the bill’s author, San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. It says Gonzalez acted with “hostility,” “overt anger” and “overt bias” toward on-demand workers, says many of the law’s exemptions were added “as political favors” that were crafted specifically “to irrationally benefit friends and harm others.”
The New York Times, in a piece this week detailing continued anger from freelance journalists over the law, noted that it’s pitted some progressives against Gonzalez: “many of those who could end up losing freelance work consider themselves progressives, so it has been confusing to find themselves disagreeing with a progressive lawmaker over a union-backed law.” (Fun side note about that Times piece: It includes photos from at least three different freelance photographers.)
Indeed, Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, who represents western Riverside County, wrote on Twitter that many of the people emailing her to complain about the law are Democrats.
Melendez agreed to share some of those emails with me (speaking of controversial exemptions from state laws, state lawmakers exempted themselves from the California Public Records Act) – she redacted the names of the senders, but wrote in their party preference, since the system allows lawmakers to see all kinds of information about the constituents sending in requests. (Some are clearly form letters, as Melendez noted, but some are not.)
Melendez plans to sign on as a co-author to Assemblyman Kevin Kiley’s proposed constitutional amendment overturning AB 5 when the Legislature gets back in session later this month.
I asked her how they’d square rolling back the law while still complying with Dynamex, the Supreme Court decision that was the basis for AB 5.
She said they’re still ironing out with lawyers how to make it happen.
“It is in the works. We want to make sure it’s within the law but also so that it’s more people who are able to be independent contractors than not,” Melendez said. “Obviously, I don’t want to turn something in that’s challenged in the courts just like AB 5 is – that’s going backward.”
Republicans, who are outnumbered many times over in the Legislature, have continued to seize on anger over the law.
“In 2020, Senate Republicans will continue to advocate for all independent contractors in the Golden State. Californians deserve better and we will continue to fight in the courts and in the Capitol,” said Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove in a statement.
But Gonzalez believes that the outcry isn’t necessarily representative of how all people impacted by the law really feel about it: “Those who lose their jobs feel free to complain loudly. But those who may benefit from the law by becoming employees, she said, ‘think it’s not appropriate to be engaged in something that affects them, that they have a conflict,’” the Times reported.
A Department of Justice report released this week in accordance with a 2015 passed by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber shows that black drivers are stopped more often than white and Latino drivers.
The report, which includes data from eight of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies, including the San Diego Police Department and San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, also shows that black drivers were searched, handcuffed and detained at far higher rates than Asian, white and Latino drivers. Yet despite being searched more often, minorities tended to have contraband on them less often than white drivers: “All racial or ethnic groups of color had lower yield rates of contraband or evidence than White individuals, meaning that officer searches of these groups tended to be less successful at finding contraband or evidence,” the report notes.
The findings from the eight agencies as a whole mirror a Voice of San Diego analysis that singled out the San Diego agencies’ data.
Black people stopped by law enforcement were searched at higher rates than any other race: 22 percent by Sheriff’s deputies and 24 percent by San Diego police. But at the same time, searches of black people resulted in lower or roughly the same rate of property seizures compared with other races, at 14 percent and 10 percent of the time, respectively.
In contrast, white people stopped were searched 17 percent of the time by Sheriff’s deputies and 19 percent of the time by San Diego police, with 18 percent and 11 percent of those searches resulting in property seizures, the data shows.