Governor Newsom Signs Bill Exempting Freelance Journalists and Others From 2019 Labor Law

(CN) — California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law Friday that exempts freelance journalists and a handful of other professions from a 2019 landmark labor law meant to protect gig workers.

While the original law was meant to benefit workers, freelance reporters, photographers and editors said the law created unreasonable limits on the amount of journalism work they could provide. The law included a provision barring freelancers from submitting more than 35 “submissions” to a single employer.

The 2019 bill AB 5 went into effect this year, targeting gig economy giants such as Lyft, Uber and Doordash. Those companies have repeatedly fought against it, threatening to shut down service in the state if the law is allowed to stand.

AB 5 essentially classifies drivers for the companies as employees rather than independent contractors, requiring the businesses to provide health insurance, mandatory minimum wages and other benefits afforded to employees.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors and National Press Photographers Association sued the state last December, the submission cap threatened their careers. That effort was blocked by a Los Angeles judge in January.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who wrote the bulk of the 2019 law, said on Twitter Friday that the new exemptions provide “more flexibility for musicians, journalists, photographers, creatives, interpreters & translators.”

While the new bill lifts the submission cap, it still holds in place a restriction from allowing contractors to replace an employee position.

Voters will decide this November on a ballot initiative backed by the companies whether to consider app-based drivers employees or independent contractors.

In addition to the exemptions for freelance journalists, Friday’s bill also exempts producers, certain musicians, real estate appraisers and youth sports coaches.

Another bill passed by the Assembly on Monday, called the Save Local Journalism Act, would provide relief to newspapers, particularly small ethnic organizations that have suffered from loss of advertising revenue due to the pandemic.

A report by the California News Publisher Association found that ethnic and community newspapers lost an average 56% in monthly advertising revenue between April and June.

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