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Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Joins Workers Calling For Passage Of Labor Bill

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Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, joined with local workers Thursday to call for the passage of a bill she authored that would limit when businesses and companies could classify employees as independent contractors.

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Speaker 1: 00:00 The fight over rights and benefits for workers and the Gig economy is heating up at the state capitol where a controversial bill faces a key vote. Today the bill is assembly bill five authored by Democratic Assembly woman, Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego. It would codify a state supreme court ruling that makes it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors.

Speaker 2: 00:21 If you're a good worker, if you're a truck driver, if you're a janitor and you're working for the company, you're doing the basic work for that company, you are their employee and you actually deserve everything that any of us in any other job get the right to minimum wage, the right to overtime, the right to paid sick days, paid family leave, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation.

Speaker 1: 00:47 That was Lorena Gonzalez who spoke at a rally in San Diego yesterday calling for the passage of the bill that is being debated in Sacramento right now. KQ Eds, government and politics reporter Katie or is there and joined us with the latest. Katie, welcome. Thanks for having me. So Katie, what is happening right now? Where does the bill stand? Right? Um, ab five is being heard in the Senate appropriations committee today. Twice a year, the appropriations committees in the Senate and the assembly go through what they call their suspense files. These are bills they have put off acting on until now and today is their deadline to do that. So, um, the committees go through these hundreds of bills in rapid fire fashion, either saying they're dead for the year or they can move forward to a vote on the floor. Um, ab five again, will be taken up by the Senate Appropriations Committee today and it's a largely expected that it will make it out and remind us, ab five stems from the so called dynamex state Supreme Court ruling.

Speaker 1: 01:50 What did that ruling say? That ruling in 2018 changed how workers in California can be classified as either employees versus a a contractor. Um, and what it said was if you are someone performing a core function of a business, for instance, if you drive for Uber, their core function is driving, right? You should be classified as an employee and not a contractor. And this can have huge ramifications for a lot of industries, but especially these gig economies that have largely, um, relied on contractors to make their businesses work well. Who would be affected by the bill and what would it change from independent contractor to employee mean for workers? The change for workers means a many of the things that we just heard assembly woman Gonzalez say in that clip, the companies would have to give them benefits. They would have to provide them with things like I'm sick days and a minimum wage and they would have different kinds of protections under the law that they don't get right now.

Speaker 1: 03:00 Um, but it is tricky because there are a lot of industries out there that have been operating on a contractor model for a very long time outside of these tech companies. And they are worried that this bill could really upend how they do their jobs. And you know, of course the bill would not apply across the board to all independent contractors. Can you tell us about the professions that would be exempt? Well, what's interesting is the test from the supreme court was actually very broad. And so as Lorena Gonzales is writing this bill, she has been um, working with different industries and granting exemptions, writing in exemptions to the bill for a lot of these industries that could be affected. For instance, doctors are largely contractors, dentists, real estate agents, hairstylists, salespeople. And we expect that these negotiations for these carve-outs will continue up until, you know, the very last minute, uh, there are two weeks left in session.

Speaker 1: 04:03 A bill has to be published in its final form for three days, 72 hours before it can be voted on. And so conceivably up until that time you can be changing the bill. How our gig companies such as Uber and Lyft responding, well, you know, they're not happy. They have a told me that, you know, why they point out that all these other industries are getting exemptions and they're not, you know, so why are they different? And but as of this moment, it seems like they have largely accepted that ab five will go through and will likely be signed. What they are pushing now is another bill they would like to see passed with specific protections and specific requirements for workers in the Gig economy. Essentially creating like a third class of workers in California and they say if they don't get that bill a bill, they like in this final two weeks of this legislative session, they will take it to the voters and they will put forward a ballot initiative.

Speaker 1: 05:08 And in fact, Uber, Lyft and door dash have all confirmed that they are putting at least $30 million each into a campaign account to, you know, promote this ballot initiative for the 2020 ballot. What about governor Newsome? Has He weighed in? Yes, governor Newsome is kind of, he's trying to thread a needle right between his support for labor unions, which are, um, in, in full support of ab five and would love to see, um, workers in the Gig economy classified as workers because obviously that's a chance to unionize them, right? Get more members. Um, but Newsome is also trying to show some support for the tech industry, which has been, um, you know, donated him millions of dollars to his, you know, his campaign accounts over the years. And he also believes that there should be a third classification. You can't, you know, something in between employee and contractor. And that is why his office has been negotiating with these tech companies. Um, what that will look like in the end and whether he supports a ballot measure, he has not said. Um, so it's all very much in flux right now. I've been speaking with Katie or politics and government reporter at KCU e d Katie, thanks so much for joining us. You're welcome.

Speaker 3: 06:33 Mm.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.