‘Gig workers’ bill finds lack of support among those it aimed to help

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- On Jan. 1, Assembly Bill 5 became law in California, impacting how freelancers, independent contractors and gig employees operate and are hired.

The law is leaving many who work in those industries with a lot of questions.

Some gig employees, like musicians, said the bill is hurting their bottom line as breweries, wineries and restaurants are scared to hire them.

“I pay my mortgage and all my bills by playing guitar and singing,” musician Jason Weeks told FOX40.

Weeks spent years learning to play the guitar, as well as bass and drums, in order to become a professional musician. But with AB 5 going into effect, he said he’s worried about the unknowns of the bill and how that is scaring away his potential employers.

“I play four or five times a week. I play for probably 30 or 40 different venues,” Weeks said. “They’re not all going to put me on their payroll. It’s just not going to happen.”

Uber and several other businesses are suing California in order to stop the bill, and even the ones who the bill was supposed to protect aren’t sure if they support it either.

“Personally, I don’t like it. Most drivers I know want the freedom to call their own hours,” ride-share driver Cindy Cloud said.

Cloud said she does want more compensation but feels the drivers and companies should work that out. She also said lawmakers should not have gotten involved.

“I don’t think it was fair in the first place the way that it was handled with the swipe of a pen. And all of a sudden, we’re supposed to be in the mainstream,” Cloud said. “It’s not that easy to switch over how many hundreds of thousands of drivers in California to an employee status.”

Meanwhile, Weeks said he feels musicians should be given an exemption from the law. He said he’s already noticed the number of gigs in 2020 dropping.

“Each venue owner that I work with, I’ve had this conversation with and they’ve been kinda like well do we kick around the idea of just not having live music at our venue anymore? Which obviously makes jobs go away,” Weeks said.

The office of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzelez, who authored the bill, sent a statement to FOX40 Friday about the backlash:

Working Californians who perform the primary work of a business are now presumed to be employees, with just a few exceptions. This will provide a clear path for hard working folks who are still being misclassified as independent contractors to regain the wages and workplace rights they have been denied by their 1099 employment. I continue to have meetings and conversations with a variety of workers and businesses affected by the new law. We have already committed to getting the music industry to figure out their piece and we are hopeful that will happen in the upcoming legislative session.

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