In California, the many vote for economic liberty for the few

9 November 2020 by Steve Blum
, , , ,

Uber eats drone

Proposition 22 is on its way to a landslide victory in California. When last I checked, yeses were leading noes by 17%. It creates a third class of workers, between wage slave employees and the righteously self-employed (you might guess how I feel about all this). The campaigns for – led by Uber and Lyft – and against – funded by labor unions – have been described as the costliest in California’s history, which is very expensive indeed.

I voted for it and I’m glad it passed, but in reality it just adds another layer of confusion on top of California’s spaghetti bowl of labor laws. Assembly bill 5, authored by Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego) and signed by governor Gavin Newsom in 2019 threw that mess of legislative pasta into a blender, by outlawing casual, independent economic activity and attempting to force micro scale entrepreneurs into rigid subservience to corporate employers. Corporate employers that can be muscled into submission by labor unions that could then extract dues from employees that would be funnelled into the pockets of the politicians who write California labor laws. Like AB 5 and the long line of exceptions to it that special interests ask for, paid for and usually didn’t get in this year’s legislative session.

It’s a great business model if you’re a senator or assembly member or a constitutional officer with veto or enforcement power. Or a corporation or labor union with a business model built on extracting rents of a scale consistent with the world’s fifth largest economy. But it’s cold comfort to anyone who wants to cut his or her own path in our economy.

The major failing of prop 22 is its narrow focus. Its benefits are limited to Californians to who “choose to work as independent contractors with
rideshare and delivery network companies”. If you want to work as an independent contractor and, say, do landscape work or write software, you’re out of luck. Unless you have the time, money and knowledge necessary to establish a formal business, with licenses, insurance, tax filings and everything else that goes with being an employer, even though the only person you’re employing is yourself.

Liberty to work should not be so denied.

I’m a self employed, independent consultant. I’ve built a business over 25 years that allows me to make a living despite AB 5. It would be a much different story if I were starting out today. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.