California Judge Denies 'Gig Worker' Exemption To Freelance Journalists

A federal judge in California has refused to temporarily exempt freelance journalists from a new state labor law which cripples their income by limiting them to just 35 articles per year, according to CBS affiliate KPIX5.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez who introduced the measure. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

US District Judge Philip Guiterrez in Los Angeles denied a request for a temporary halt to the law, AB5, by two freelancers' organizations - ruling that they waited too long to file their opposition while he takes more time to consider their objections ahead of a March hearing.

The judge said the groups waited three months to sue after the bill was signed into law, and just two weeks before it took effect. They sought the temporary restraining order just a day before it became effective.

“Plaintiffs’ delay belies their claim that there is an emergency,” Gutierrez said in his ruling Friday. There would have been time for a full hearing had they “promptly filed” their objections, he wrote. -KPIX5

AB5, went into effect January 1st, and has already resulted in outlets like Vox Media cutting ties with hundreds of freelance writers in California. An attorney for one of the groups said on Monday that the harm to California freelance journalists has been immediate.

"Freelance journalists in California are losing work each day AB 5 remains in effect," said Jim Manley, an attorney for the nonprofit libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation, although the judge’s decision to wait until March for a full hearing "is understandable given the gravity of the issues."

The American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association contend that the law would unconstitutionally affect free speech and the media by imposing what their lawsuit calls an “irrational and arbitrary” limit of 35 submissions annually to each media outlet. -KPIX5

"I know many people who would hit that cap for an outlet in a single week, let alone in a year," freelance journalist Alisha Grauso of Santa Monica, California told The Bold Italic. "The 35 submission cap might work for a writer at a traditional outlet or magazine who is writing a 5,000-word piece for a dollar a word, but the vast majority of writers have gigs that are far more versatile"

The law, designed to 'protect' Uber and Lyft drivers, along with those who deliver food for companies such as DoorDash and Postmates, does not apply to over 700,000 independent truckers after a different judge temporarily blocked AB5 from impacting them.

Uber and Postmates, meanwhile, have filed a separate lawsuit, arguing that it violates federal and state constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. They have filed to attach their objections to the freelancers' lawsuit in front of the same judge.