Writers

Rebel Writers Force Liberal Lawmaker Retreat

Freelance writers in the state of California were so upset about the new “gig worker” law that nanny-state liberals concocted that they threw a full scale revolution, forcing the author of the bill to back down.

Writers revolt against restriction of trade

Hollywood can’t produce movies without any writers. That is only one segment of a vast market dominated by freelance workers. Golden State lawmakers weren’t thinking about the consequences that Assembly Bill 5 would have on one of their biggest industries. While nobody affected by the new law is happy about it, and the lawsuits are flying like snowflakes in a blizzard, the writers have such clout that they’re at least getting token consideration.

Under the law which went into effect on January 1, “freelance writers, editors and photographers” were only allowed to submit 35 pieces of content a year to any single outlet. Anything more than that would have to be done under a full employment arrangement that provides medical care and all the other required benefits of a full time job. The unions called it restriction of trade and headed to the courthouse.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association both sued the state of California. By Thursday, the author of the bill, assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, was feeling the heat. She tweeted that the 35 submission cap would soon be history. “Based on dozens of meetings with freelance journalists & photographers, we have submitted language to legislative counsel that we hope to have available next week to put into AB1850 which will cut out the 35 submission cap.” That was a mistake, she assures. Freelance writers were always supposed to be entitled to an exemption.

A single step in the right direction

Removing any submission caps and limits on video recording “would be a step in the right direction,” attorney Jim Manley agrees, but it’s still a long journey. “We have not seen the bill language, but I hope that the revised law will no longer treat journalists as second-class freelancers.”

Alisha Grauso, who is co-leader of California Freelance Writers United will believe it when she sees it. “We have to ensure the language of the amendment is clear and precise and does no unintentional harm to freelancers, then get the amendment fast-tracked. People can’t wait until January 1, 2021 for relief from a bill that is hurting them right now.”

Other industries affected want the bill thrown in the trash where it belongs. All independent contractors are regulated by the onerous new rules, “including drivers for services like Uber, food delivery workers, hairdressers and other gig economy workers.”

Truck drivers have already been temporarily exempted from the law while litigation unwinds in the courts. Los Angeles Superior Court judge William Highberger says the state can’t tell them what to do because “they are subject to federal statute.”

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