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Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez holds a press conference at Waterfront Park with supporters of AB 5. / Photo by Megan Wood

Though Friday is a pivotal day for many bills in the Legislature as the two appropriations committees empty out their suspense files, it’s clearer than ever that the fight over gig economy workers won’t end anytime soon.

Earlier this month, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins raised eyebrows when she told Capital Public Radio that the fight over gig economy workers would likely extend past this year. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s bill AB 5 is a high-profile effort to codify a court ruling that limits the instances in which employers can classify workers as independent contractors. Gonzalez has focused in particular on extending employment rights and benefits to gig workers like rideshare drivers.

Now, rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, as well as meal delivery app DoorDash have announced they’ll pour millions into a potential ballot measure if the fight over AB 5 doesn’t go their way. (They appear to have already started making good on the promise.)

It’s not a new strategy.

“This isn’t the first time an industry has pressured lawmakers to act by dangling the prospect of a long and costly ballot fight,” the Associated Press noted. “Last year, beverage companies, the paint industry and a wealthy developer all withdrew initiatives at the last minute after striking deals with lawmakers.

Gonzalez said on Twitter that the companies’ willingness to pump money into a ballot measure was telling.

“Billionaires who say they can’t pay minimum wages to their workers say they will spend tens of millions to avoid labor laws. Just pay your damn workers!” she wrote.

Meanwhile …

  • The Sierra Club detailed its support for AB 5 by saying if passed, “trucking companies will have a harder time escaping responsibility for cleaning up the pollution created by the vehicles that are at the heart of their profits. Bad-actor companies won’t be able to easily out-compete responsible companies.”
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff issued a statement saying he supports rideshare workers’ right to unionize.
  • It’s still not clear what businesses or workers will get exemptions under the law if it moves forward. Freelance journalists, for example, were given exemptions after months of back-and-forth about how the law would impact them, but now newspaper industry leaders say the bill presents a massive threat to the industry because of how it might apply to the people who deliver the paper. The bill “would basically make daily delivery of the print version of the newspaper nearly impossible,” the Sacramento Bee editorial board wrote.

State Will Audit San Diego’s Air Pollution Control District

The state will audit San Diego’s Air Pollution Control District, which oversees major sources of air pollution other than cars, said Assemblyman Todd Gloria, who requested the audit in July.

Gloria asked for the audit of the district’s finances and “the potential ‘mission creep’” of the district and its staff. The audit goes along with Gloria’s attempt to shake up the little-known district, which is now run by the five-member County Board of Supervisors, a group that has struggled to deal with the pollution that causes climate change. His bill would reconstitute the district with a more diverse group of members that would be presumably more favorable to stricter regulations.

That bill, AB 423, is pending in the Senate. Gloria’s office is optimistic the bill will make it to the Senate floor.

In the July letter requesting the audit, Gloria said even if that bill doesn’t pass, it is still important for the district’s information to be untangled from the budget by an audit.

Environmental activists have long argued the district has done a lackluster job, failing to update air pollution assessments or take action against polluters. The San Diego region scores poorly on an annual air quality report card by the American Lung Association.

— Ry Rivard

Golden State News

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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