Libby Emmons and David Marcus at the New York Post put a spotlight on the ongoing crusade against the gig economy. They began by citing California Assembly Bill 5 which was designed to put the clamps on the gig economy.
Ostensibly marketed as a bill to reign in rideshare companies like Uber by forcing independent contractors to receive the same benefits as employees, the law is now poised to harm freelance writers.
This law limits the number of articles a freelancer can sell to a media outlet without occupying a formal employee position to 35. However, a rising number of journalists in the 21st century make a living by writing frequently for a few outlets. The damage is already starting to crop up, with news and opinion website Vox cutting 200 of its California freelancers at one of its outlets.
Such legislation is not just staying in the Golden State. New iterations are being considered in New York and New Jersey. The law might be based in the good intention of protecting gig laborers by providing them with the rights of traditional employees, however, as we’ve repeatedly seen with legislative overreach these days, there are plenty of second and third-order effects that come about because of these interventions.
Indeed, the gig economy is a transformational advancement in socioeconomic affairs, one that people are still adjusting to as we speak. There will obviously be growing pains as people transition into these work structures. However, politicians who carelessly demagogue these situations make things worse when they scribble legislation that ends up creating unintended consequences.
Ultimately, freelance writing is an enhancement of free speech, where dissident voices have the freedom to choose what outlets they write for, which are often outside of the legacy media’s control. The flexibility that freelance work has given writers could be in jeopardy thanks to such legislation. That extra income that could go to meet rent, pay for school, or invest in self-education, will now evaporate just because a bunch of politicians supposedly know better and have to save their constituents from the perceived bugaboos of the free market.
New York and New Jersey are now considering their own versions of anti-gig bills, although the content of such bills remains to be seen. Should these bills target freelance writers like the one in California, it will only consolidate the legacy media’s power and prevent independent voices from providing a unique perspective in an otherwise stagnant media domain.