Here's what AB-5 means for gig-workers

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Friday, September 13, 2019
Here's what AB-5 means for gig-workers
Hundreds of thousands of gig economy workers are about to be reclassified as employees under a new bill. But not everyone is happy about this.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The face of employment in California is about to change dramatically. Hundreds of thousands of gig economy workers are about to be reclassified as employees under a new bill, AB-5. But not everyone is happy about this.

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There will be 9.2 million Americans in this "gig-economy" by 2021. These are jobs that are temporary, flexible and the worker is paid by the job.

Some say that taking this classification away takes away their livelihood.

Greg Menna, owner of Greg's Trucking, is one of them. "It'll probably put me out of business".

Menna has been in the trucking industry for more than 40 years and believes the passing of a bill expected to be signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom will hurt his business so much, he's joining forces with a competitor, Debbi Ferrari of Mag Trucking, in order to find a solution.

"I've been working on this for a year and a half and I've had 100 meetings with senators, assembly members and their staff," says Debbi, exasperated.

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The bill, known as AB-5, will give fundamentally change the way workers are classified, making all laborers in California "employees" instead of independent contractors.

Harley Shaiken, a professor at Berkeley, specializes in labor law and compares the passing of AB-5 to the Magna Carta.

"It will give them more rights on the job, access to more benefits and more stable workplace."

But for trucking brokers like Gregg and Debbi, they say it's not about money, but taking care of their employees and contractors who own their own trucks.

"They'll have no freedom and they're already making five times more than minimum wage!"

Despite the bill affecting hundreds of thousands of workers in businesses such as nail salons and in the medical field, rideshare drivers for behemoths Uber and Lyft have been the most vocal.

Driver Edan Alva points to a rideshare waiting lot at San Francisco International Airport. "These drivers are just waiting...they're not being paid for waiting here."

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He is also part of the activist group Gig Workers Rising and complains about low wages and other unfair working conditions.

"Currently I get paid less than 50 percent of what I did four years ago when I started," he exclaims.

Fellow rideshare driver Ralph Jacobson, who drove a taxi for decades and spoke to us from a black luxury SUV he drives for Uber Black, says if gig-workers are upset about their wages, they should find new work, not support AB-5.

"I just don't want my life upended or turned around upside down and totally compromised for a select group of drivers who came in with no experience."

Whether a worker is for or against the bill, one thing is certain: there WILL be exceptions.

"There may be exceptions or exemptions made or it could be re crafted where there are unusual hardships or the application doesn't appear as smooth," says Professor Shaiken.

Just this week, Uber announced when AB-5 passes, they will not comply. Professor Shaiken says they can't do that because the law is the law...and that these rideshare companies don't want their workers to have the right to form a union.

UPDATE: AB-5 was approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 18, 2019.