It is always amazing when government thinks it can outsmart business. It is equally amazing that Californians elect people who choose to interfere with the lives of other Californians. A case in point is the attempt by Sacramento to regulate, and virtually eliminate, the earning potential of many Californians by turning independent contractors into employees.

The target of the law seems to be ridesharing companies in California, but the law also unnecessarily targets ridesharing drivers. The law, which was scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2020, effects the so-called “gig-economy” companies working with a group of independent ridesharing drivers. That’s right, Sacramento wants to stifle an entire economic segment in California through unnecessary regulation. What a shock. All Californians can feel better now that Sacramento is cracking down on these rogue companies providing 1) income to people ready, willing, and able to drive, and 2) transportation alternatives for all of us.

The new law, Assembly Bill 5, sought to turn independent contractors into employees of the companies for which they drive. Really? Sacramento has run out of people to protect and now needs to help people not seeking help?

Independent contractors work for themselves and drive for Uber, Lyft, or haul freight for a variety of companies. They use their own vehicles, and in the case of truckers, have invested tens of thousands of dollars purchasing a big rig so they don’t have to punch a clock. They must have clean driving records, current registration, and adequate insurance. Anyone wanting to drive as an employee can get a job with a taxi service, Walmart, FedEx, UPS, or any other number of companies needing employee-drivers. Independent contractors choose to drive for themselves. They choose to set their own hours and determine for themselves when and where they earn money.

Only in Sacramento would they have the audacity to believe they know better how independent drivers should live their lives. But then again, the bill was sponsored by only Democrats, and Democrats have the reputation of being the party wanting to regulate everything in our lives. Even if not true, this law does nothing to dispel the myth.

The new law wants the independent contractors to earn a minimum wage, have workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job, be able to apply for unemployment insurance, have paid sick leave, and paid family leave. Our representatives seem to have forgotten that independent contractors are just that – independent. Drivers are not being coerced into driving. Drivers may refuse to accept a job if they think they are being treated unfairly. That’s the nature of independent work.

The new law is inconsistent. Freelance writers, photographers, and musicians are also affected. So perhaps some of entertainment gossip would be eliminated if the popperazzi lost their independence, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. A catchy new tune by an aspiring musician on the radio may never be heard if the law is implemented, and we will never know what we missed. Doctors and certain other professionals are exempt. Isn’t an emergency room doctor required by the hospital to help people that walk through the door? Why do they get an exemption? Maybe they have a better lobby in Sacramento than the driver taking drunks home from a party on New Year’s Eve. Although, both seem equally important.

The argument goes that Sacramento needs to protect drivers because they cannot protect themselves. Who are these people that need protection? There hasn’t been an outcry from disgruntled drivers. I have taken many Uber rides and no driver I have encountered was upset they were driving me to my destination. They seem to be a friendly bunch with nice, clean vehicles and positive personalities. They aren’t marching with pickets at the capitol. They are driving for themselves or spending time with family or friends on their terms.

The law seems to be on hold for now. One independent contractor group filed a lawsuit to stop Assembly Bill 5. A federal judge issued a temporary order stopping enforcement against the California Trucking Association because the new California law may violate federal law. Sacramento should have thought of that. Uber is adjusting their pricing without reclassifying the drivers as employees. Great, Sacramento just increased the cost for me to go from a hotel to The Comedy Store when I don’t want to hassle with L.A. traffic.

Independent contractors determine when, where, and whether they work. Independent contractors determine when, where, and whether they spend time with their family or friends. Independent contractors determine their own destiny, in earning potential and quality of life. Independent contractors have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuant of happiness as they determine. That is the American way, but not if we leave it up to Sacramento.

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(Note: Gregory Blevins is an attorney, has an MBA from Pepperdine University, and is a Doctoral Candidate in Public Administration at the University of La Verne. He currently serves as a member on the Kings County Behavioral Health Advisory Board.)

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