Workers Affected by AB 5 Confront Assemblymember Gonzalez-Fletcher
By Mario A. Cortez
A group of San Diegans affected by California’s Assembly Bill 5 arrived at an Elizabeth Warren campaign event in Barrio Logan where the bill’s author, State Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher (D-San Diego), was to speak before a stump speech by Obama-era HUD secretary Julian Castro.
The contingent voicing its discontent at the new law was comprised of about 15 individuals, including cartoonists, court reporters, tattoo artists, musicians, and caregivers. The protesters held handmade signs, shouted “repeal AB 5”, and booed for about a minute as the local assemblywoman took to the mic.
Gonzalez-Fletcher ignored the reaction and continued with her remarks in support of Warren, a Massachusetts Senator aspiring to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate for the November Election.
Signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom in September of last year, AB 5 put in place three statutes, known as the “ABC Rules”, to make it harder for companies to claim employees are independent contractors. Certain professions, from doctors to accountants, are exempted from the new rules.
The law went into effect on January 1 of this year. Gonzalez-Fletcher has stated AB 5 protects workers from being taken advantage of by employers and being denied benefits.
Translator and interpreter Gloria Rivera was part of the group protesting Gonzalez-Fletcher’s appearance. She shared that many professionals in her field don’t pass some of the requisites of the ABC Test, which determines if a worker can be classified as an independent contractor, business to business exemption rules, as they provide services to clients of their contracted client.
Rivera says the passing of AB 5 has severely affected her opportunity to land contracts and stripped her of several protections she has when creating a contract with a client, and much of her independence as well.
“As contractors, if we get canceled less than 24 hours in advance we can still get paid for our time,” Rivera said. “If we arrive and the client isn’t there, we get paid as stated in our contracts. With AB 5 we lose mileage compensation, sometimes we lose our independent contractor tax exemption too.”
Twinkle Star, a recording artist who performs for children and families, says the bill has gutted her ability to book venues and formally collaborate with other musicians.
“All the musicians who play with me for one or five shows I now have to make them employees and pay into their taxes and unemployment,” Star said. “I also have to pay workers comp for each venue we land. The only time I get paid is when I land a gig, not for all my time spent hustling. Big companies like Disney and Universal have marketing and booking agents and money to pay everyone, but I’m only one person,” she added.