House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of Calif., speaks during the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Photo via AP)
The Deadline website wrote a piece today about how Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) was “leading efforts in Congress to secure relief benefits” for freelancers and independent contractors in California who by the very nature of what they do do not qualify for unemployment benefits.
In a letter written to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Schiff noted how the virtual shutdown of California’s economy would hit freelancers particularly hard:
“In the coming weeks, it is critical that Congress provide relief to impacted workers and their families. Particularly hard hit are freelancers, contractors, and other independent workers who in many cases lack the resources of a large employer as well as unemployment and paid leave protections provided to traditional employees. As events are called off, contracts postponed, performances canceled, and other opportunities for work reduced, we must ensure that relief is provided to all affected workers, regardless of the structure of their employment.
“In particular, we urge you to include protections for freelance and contract workers in the entertainment industry who have lost work because of coronavirus-related cancellations or postponements. For every worker or performer on stage or in front of the camera, there are dozens more who make their living in this industry—an industry in crisis, with virtually every workplace in the country shut down over the past week.
Read the full letter below, which was endorsed by several other Democratic members of Congress, including what I assume are all of the members from the California delegation:
Freelance, contract and gig economy workers are being hit hard by the economic impacts of this pandemic.
Especially my constituents in the entertainment industry.
Many can’t qualify for unemployment or other benefits.
We are working to fix that in the next relief bill: pic.twitter.com/Ny3qhPXEXV
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 19, 2020
This letter is infuriating on so many levels, with the most important one being the fact that gig workers in California were losing jobs well before the state locked itself down over the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. The reason why is California’s job-killing law AB5, which went into effect at the first of the year. Among other things, it severely curbs the ability of freelancers to provide for themselves and their families by limiting the amount of work they can do.
The bill, introduced by California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D) and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, was bought and paid for by unions, and has had a devastating impact on the gig economy already:
California’s Assembly Bill 5, which went into effect January 1, 2020, was touted as a bill to protect people who drove for Uber, Lyft, and other app-based platforms from being exploited and misclassified as contractors instead of employees.
What the bill really did was make it illegal for Californians to choose how, when, and where to work to support their families. Overnight tens of thousands of people in various industries – independent truckers, writers, photographers, videographers, translators, transcribers, interpreters, gig musicians, voice over actors, event planners, caterers, academic tutors, youth sports coaches, and more – found their income streams either entirely eliminated or severely curtailed.
If Schiff really cared about independent contractors in his state and Congressional district, he’d have spoken out against the bill last year before it went into effect But we all know what Schiff’s priorities were at the time.
Twitter users, including our own Nick Arama, let him have it:
Um, you Democrats already killed millions of gig jobs in California and are planning on doing it across the nation. Why don't you solve that first?
— Nickarama (@Nickarama1) March 19, 2020
Maybe you should talk to ***YOUR ENTIRE STATE PARTY APARATUS*** about the shitshow legislation called #AB5
— Plastic Straw Cartel Chief (@rcjparry) March 19, 2020
— Lisa Rothstein – Brand Storyteller, Cartoonist (@davincidiva) March 19, 2020
Call .@GavinNewsom and ask him to Suspend #AB5. It was your party in power in this state that brought this Franken-law into life, and only the governor can kill it. That will be the FIRST STEP in getting independent contractors, professionals and gig workers relief.
— Jennifer Oliver O'Connell (@asthegirlturns) March 19, 2020
What Schiff could really do to help California’s freelancers is demand Newsom suspend AB5 effective immediately.
As wrote yesterday, this needs to happen now rather than later, so freelancers in California can safely support their families during this time without fear of penalty. Suspending it now would also free up independent healthcare contractors to assist their fellow Californians with their medical needs at a critical time in the spread of the virus, which would give healthcare workers in doctors offices and hospitals more time to devote to life-saving in-house care needs.
My RedState colleagues Kira Davis and Jennifer Van Laar have written extensively about AB5, for people looking for more information on what the bill does and how it has negatively impacted gig workers and their ability to make money in California.