Unfortunately, the misguided law may become a model for New York, whose publishing industry is much bigger and more dynamic than California's, creating many more opportunities for freelancers to thrive.
In California, freelancers are faced with the possibility of losing their livelihoods because the independent contractors law, known as AB 5, requires media outlets that publish more than 35 articles from a single writer must treat that person as an employee, not an independent contractor. The law also applies to photographers working in state.
Two journalist groups last week sued the state of California, asking a federal court to stop enforcement of the law. They argued the law hurts freelancers and even violates their rights to free speech. As of press time, a judgment on the injunction was still pending.
New York lawmakers this year introduced a gig-worker bill that resembles the California law, which mostly was aimed at ride-sharing giants like Uber and Lyft that enlist tens of thousands of drivers who work as independent contractors.
New York State Sen. Robert Jackson and New York Assemblywoman Deborah Glick are co-sponsoring the bill, and I'd urge them to exempt journalists from the profoundly negative effects of limiting how publishers can work with them.<
Freelancing may not be ideal for everyone, but many journalists want the flexibility to work for multiple publications and diversify their sources of income. Having multiple clients protects writers from the possibly devastating effects of losing a job at a single employer, an all-too-common occurrence for many journalists these days.
Unemployment insurance, whose maximum pretax benefit is capped at a paltry $504 a week in New York, is mostly an empty promise that anyone should be embarrassed to cite as a meaningful benefit of having a full-time job.
Freelancing also allows for greater time-shifting of work while handling other responsibilities, like childcare, something that most employers are too rigid to allow beyond a limited period of maternity or paternity leave.