AB5 and the War on Lyft/Uber expose why Black Jobs Matter

18 08 2020

Well, Lordy, lordy, who would have thought that a bad law and a pandemic would render a response from Civil Rights organizations that actually address the real needs of their people? The NAACP and other business and civil rights organizations sent an urgent letter to Governor Gavin Newsom calling for him to stop the war on the gig economy and to use his emergency powers to suspend #AB5, and to protect the work of drivers for Uber and Lyft.

Another anti-AB5 colleague found it, but I promptly tweeted it out:

NAACP Calls Newsom to Stop War on Gig Economy

For those of you who have been under a rock, #AB5 has all but decimated the economic prospects of independent contractors, freelancers, and gig workers in California. On top of this, the State of California is doing its utmost to end Uber and Lyft operations in California: filing lawsuits, lodging fines, and faux organizing by disgruntled drivers (totally engineered by the Labor Unions) in order to extract money that they claim the state and their drivers are owed.

Uber and Lyft have refused to cave, but in light of the court upholding an injunction forcing the app companies to convert their drivers to employees by August 20, both Uber and Lyft have said they will suspend operations in California through November. The vote on the Prop 22 ballot measure, which would allow Californians to decide whether these drivers should be able to be an independent contractor or an employee, will be the deciding factor.

Then Covid-19 with its subsequent lock downs and closed businesses rendered the death blow. Governor Newsom’s schizophrenic and inconsistent response and actions, appearing perfectly groomed and coiffed while the rest of us developed gray hairs and lumberjack beards, were just more nails in the coffin.

Both the evil law and the virus exposed unintended consequences (what else is new?). The fact that Blacks and Hispanics are more susceptible to the virus and more likely to be adversely affected by it, and the so-called experts still have no idea why this is the case. The lack of any proper measures beyond mask wearing has made some of us understandably cautious about trying to go among people and look for work—if there is any work to be had.

CBS News reported on a University of Santa Cruz research survey that found that 40 percent of Black businesses in major cities like New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles have been lost, and probably will never come back.

“There were more than 1 million black-owned businesses in the U.S. at the beginning of February, according to research from the University of California at Santa Cruz, which drew from Census survey estimates. By mid-April, 440,000 black business owners had shuttered their company for good — a 41% plunge. By comparison, 17% of white-owned businesses closed during the same period, the UC Santa Cruz research shows.”

Back in May, on my Communities Digital News page, I reported that women and minorities make up a huge chunk of independent contractors, and this law disenfranchises us; particularly during this pandemic, when we all could be working from home.

So, the fact that the NAACP recognizes this and took action came as a huge surprise. Writer baldilocks replied to my tweet with this apt response:

Baldilocks Response to NAACP Tweet

The rest of that phrase goes, “is right twice a day.” And it’s true. As much as the organization has moved away from true racial justice and equality, on this particular issue of the evils of AB5 and the Uber/Lyft war, it has stepped up to the plate.

Other organizations who sponsored the letter include the Los Angeles Urban League, Ex-Offender Action Network, and Independent Professionals Association.

It is quite an amazing missive, and you can read it in its entirety here. While I don’t agree with all its suggested solutions, the outlining of the case that AB5 and the injunctions against Uber and Lyft need to go is spot on.

An excerpt from the letter:

“The fact is that this crisis demands a new approach. COVID-19 has exposed just how broken the existing safety net programs are for people of color. Unemployment insurance in the U.S. is a patchwork of state-controlled programs originally designed to allow states to exclude Black domestic and agricultural workers during the Great Depression. The challenges faced by Black Americans in accessing unemployment assistance, business loans, and other pandemic assistance funding today are the direct result of racist policies that systematically disenfranchise Black Americans because they do not look like the traditional employees and businesses for whom these programs were designed.”

It ends with this:

“Governor, for African Americans, self-employment is not just a matter of pride – it is a matter of principle. Our people have been fighting for the right to profit from our own labor for over 400 years. We are proud of our resilience and entrepreneurship in the face of odds that have always been stacked against us. But while the coronavirus is destroying Black businesses, we must not allow this disease to destroy our independence.”

Boom. The NAACP laid bare to the Governor why Black JOBS Matter.

Let’s hope Newsom grows a brain and listens.

 


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