The American Society of Journalists and Authors Inc. and National Press Photographers Association are challenging Assembly Bill 5, which takes effect on Jan. 1. The law limits reporters and photographers to contributing 35 pieces of content to a single publication a year.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez authored the law, but refused to give freelance journalists a "workable exemption" as graphic artists, grant writers and marketing copy writers were given, the ASJA said in a statement.
The law is part of California's broader effort to regulate gig-economy companies like Uber, whose workforce consists of independent contractors. Its goal is to compel companies to hire people full-time and give them greater workplace protections, which is a noble effort.
However, it doesn't recognize the market realities for many embattled news organizations that aren't necessarily going to hire full-timers. More likely, they will cap a freelancer's output, send the work elsewhere or simply cut their freelance budgets entirely.
Many journalists want the flexibility to freelance for multiple publications, or to have time for other personal responsibilities, like childcare. They may not feel as if they're being denied a full-time job or are the victims of exploitation.
Of course, there are those writers and editors who do feel as if they have been exploited, as a class-action suit against Vox Media has demonstrated. Two years ago, former site managers of its SB Nation sports-blogging network sued the digital publisher, claiming it misclassified bloggers as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime.
While that case is ongoing, Vox this week took steps to comply with California's gig-economy law. The publisher said it will end contracts with hundreds of freelance writers and editors who covered sports for SB Nation and hire full- and part-time employees.
That means 200 people will lose paying gigs so that 20 people can get jobs, according to several press reports. California's law is having its intended effect, so can its proponents really declare victory?