Your editorial “California Runs Off the Road” (Jan. 24) highlights the many problems California’s new AB5 law has caused for employees across the state. The overregulation of independent contractors, resulting in the persecution of freelance journalism in the state, has led to hundreds of journalist layoffs. Lower advertising dollars or decreased readership isn’t the cause.
Though the editorial notes that the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association are both challenging the law for abridging free speech, many journalists and media entities initially celebrated the passage of AB5. News sites like Vox Media celebrated that independent contractors in California will “get basic labor rights for the first time” under AB5. Then a mere three months later, Vox Media announced the layoff of hundreds of freelance journalists due to AB5’s additional costs of using freelance reporters in the Golden State.
While some blame tech for destroying America’s press industry, tech actually made it easier for freelancers to become journalists and news photographers. Perhaps a better cause of the decimation of journalism is the anticontractor activists, the demonization of where and when a person can work and laws like AB5 that are decimating local journalism.