New California Law Could Destroy Careers of Freelance Writers

P. Gardner Goldsmith | October 21, 2019
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In their never-ending zeal to mess with other people’s lives and tell others how to engage in voluntary commerce, the California Assembly recently passed a bill that, when it takes effect in January, could force freelance writers to spend much more of their time searching for new markets than actually writing.

As Katie Kilkenny writes for The Hollywood Reporter, the statute is known as AB 5, was signed into “law” on September 18, and will go into effect on January 1.

And, of course, the statute is a reflection of the collectivist drive to tell ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft that, instead of working with employees as independent contractors the way they might desire, the companies and employees must deal with each other the way the politicians command and label the employees as regular workers. This, of course, means that the politicians and their media fans can claim they “made sure” those vile, nasty, evil companies provide health insurance to drivers who might otherwise have to buy their own if they were considered indie-contractors.

Apart from the fact that Ms. Kilkenny appears to agree with the mistaken notion that Uber and Lyft (and other “gig” companies) “misclassify” their employees as independent contractors rather than full-time employees, she does yeoman service in highlighting how a provision in the statute is also messing with how freelance writers engage in their contracts with people utilizing their services:

If a freelance journalist writes for a magazine, newspaper or other entity whose central mission is to disseminate the news, the law says, that journalist is capped at writing 35 ‘submissions’ per year per ‘putative employer.’

Otherwise, yeah, you got it, the writer is to be considered akin to a full-time employee and must be offered health insurance and lollipops (the latter being mere conjecture).

Which means one of two – or, possibly, both – things will happen.

First, it means that instead of working in a comfortable relationship with a contractor who might want more than 35 pieces a year, the writer will have to cap work for that one contractor at 35, then spend much more time trying to find ready markets willing to accept his or her work.

Second, it means that some publishers and writers might try to figure out creative ways they can reclassify the work, calling two pieces “one” if they have a similar theme.

All of which means extra mental energy, time, and money will be spent on navigating the political mandates and legalese instead of offering real substance to consumers.

Ahh, but the politician who put together this monster claimed that the statute was written to provide more writers opportunities to work and to make sure that freelance writers weren’t somehow preyed upon by unscrupulous publishers who might take a lot of pieces from them, but not provide them with health benefits the way the politicians want them to.

The overall goal of AB 5, Gonzalez (Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, author of the bill) says, is ‘to protect and preserve good jobs. We're trying to create new good jobs and a livable, sustainable wage job.’

Curiously, peacefully-minded people don’t “create new good jobs” by telling others how to engage in voluntary contract and do their jobs. They actually start their own businesses and offer work based on their private needs and what their customers like.

But this isn’t the modus operandi of most politicians, who, instead, decide to push others around, completely disregarding this peaceful principle and even the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This important section, found in Article One, Section Ten, of the U.S. Constitution states:

No State… shall pass… any Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts…

But, as we have seen with numerous states passing flagrantly anti-constitutional so-called “Red Flag” statutes that completely undermine the right to keep and bear arms that is supposedly protected by the Second Amendment, the Contract Clause, would prevent most state licensing statutes and regulations, so most politicians act as if the clause doesn’t exist.