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Impending California Gig Law Triggers Vox Media to Cut Hundreds of Freelance Jobs

Impending California Gig Law Triggers Vox Media to Cut Hundreds of Freelance Jobs

“Contractors who wish to continue contributing can do so but ‘need to understand they will not be paid for future contributions.'”

When progressives in California’s media supported the Democrats in state elections, they may have forgotten that the politicians were going to enact fiscal as well as social policies.

Now that the Democrats have a continuing majority in the state legislature, the representatives have passed a measure that is designed to “protect” employees from unscrupulous employers. The new law, known as AB 5, require businesses to hire workers as employees, not independent contractors, with some exceptions.

The move has triggered one firm to cut its staff ahead of AB 5 implementation.

Hundreds of freelance writers at Vox Media, primarily those covering sports for the SB Nation site, will lose their jobs in the coming months as the company prepares for a California law to go into effect that will force companies to reclassify contractors in the state as employees.

“This is a bittersweet note of thanks to our California independent contractors,” John Ness, executive director of SB Nation, wrote in a post on Monday. “In 2020, we will move California’s team blogs from our established system with hundreds of contractors to a new one run by a team of new SB Nation employees.”

In a separate memo seen by CNBC, Ness said that California contractors can apply for a full-time or part-time position in California. Contractors who wish to continue contributing can do so but “need to understand they will not be paid for future contributions,” he said. “We know this may be a difficult decision, so we’re giving everyone affected 30 days to decide what works for them,” Ness added.

Approximately 200 freelance jobs will be consolidated into about two dozen full- or part-time positions.

The law, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, “makes it impossible for us to continue with our current California team site structure,” John Ness, executive director at SB Nation, said in a post on Monday, “because it restricts contractors from producing more than 35 written content ‘submissions’ per year.”

The affected writers are frequent contributors to the 25 SB Nation blogs focused on California teams. The team-centric sites include Golden State of Mind, for the N.B.A.’s Warriors; Conquest Chronicles, for the University of Southern California sports; and True Blue LA, which covers baseball’s Dodgers. Many of the SB Nation writers contributed dozens of posts to the sites each year for little pay, according to filings in a related lawsuit.

Mr. Ness said the cuts were also related to a “business and staffing strategy” that predated the law’s passage in September.

About 20 full-time and part-time employees will replace the bloggers, said a person with knowledge of the change who was not authorized to discuss it publicly. Mr. Ness encouraged the regular freelancers to apply for those jobs.

As a bonus, freelancers found out about the new staffing structure via Twitter.

Vox Media won’t be the only company axing California freelance writers, either.

“Unfortunately, this is exactly what we predicted would happen, and exactly what we told lawmakers would happen. There is simply no incentive for digital media companies and outlets to keep working with California-based freelance writers,” California Freelance Writers United co-leader Alisha Grauso said in a statement to THR. “Even if companies aren’t misclassifying their employees, the language of the bill is simultaneously so draconian and so vague that many companies just don’t want the headache of interpretation or risk of violation. And why would they? They can simply go outside of California to find more writers.”

Added Grauso, “Vox is the most high-profile outlet we’ve seen laying off writers in response to AB-5 so far, but other companies have already sent out emails to CA freelancers terminating their contracts. Others are blacklisting CA-based writers from applying to freelance gigs. Frustratingly, even if a few staff jobs are added in response to AB-5 — which is unlikely except at the biggest outlets with the deepest pockets — the handful of roles created won’t make up for the thousands of freelance writers losing steady gigs because of the bill. The math is completely upside-down and freelance writers are coming out on the losing end.”

Passing the bill before finding out what is in the bill occurs at the state as well as the federal level.

If the Vox Media freelances had read Legal Insurrection, they would have known the only law that remains constant in California is the one related to unintended consequences.

The descent of California into the bottomless pits of progressivism continues.


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First world problems in a third world state.

Meh. The digital Brownshirts of Pox will blame Trump (or the Russians, or global warming) for their predicament while agitating for a government bailout.

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | December 17, 2019 at 10:56 am

Fewer Media Jobs?

I’m for anything that slashes “media” jobs!


You missed adding the Vox article about how awesome the law is. You need that for the full Karmic circle to be complete.

PS- For the Uber drivers, et al, who may potentially lose a source of income a feel for them. It’s a shame when the government passes laws to keep you from economic freedom.

Wonder what this does to entertainers. They meet the ABC test. Of course Uber is dead in the water…Newsome’s target.

    buck61 in reply to puhiawa. | December 17, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Plenty of Uber / Lyft drivers went out and leased or bought vehicles for this business, good luck making the payments when you are limited to how much you can work as a part timer, if they decide to actually hire people

      birmingham in reply to buck61. | December 18, 2019 at 10:21 am

      Sorry was trying to hit Reply but down button instead. People in Cali should know by now that’s it’s futile to try to start a business there. Only state employees are protected from the government.

    Subotai Bahadur in reply to puhiawa. | December 17, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    It affects [if applied and not given an exemption because they are friends of those in power] the entire entertainment industry. Everybody who works backstage, who does makeup, who does stunts, who edits, who does tech work, etc. is part of the gig economy they are shutting down. Now is the time for conservatives to start filing legal actions to make them apply the law to show business.

    Subotai Bahadur

“If the Vox Media freelances had read Legal Insurrection, they would have known the only law that remains constant in California is the one related to unintended consequences.”

Unintended by whom?

Voice_of_Reason | December 17, 2019 at 12:35 pm

government action ALWAYS has costs and unintended consequences. “progressive” governance induced more costs and more unintended consequences than limited government.

that’s why government should stick to its core purposes.

Voxplain that, you condescending progressive pricks.

AF_Chief_Master_Sgt | December 17, 2019 at 1:26 pm

No sorrows here. When progressives live by government diktat, they must learn to die by government diktat.

Meh, just because there are some transitional woes doesn’t mean it’s a bad law. People who are really employees should be treated by the law as employees, not independent contractors. Unscrupulous employers have been using the distinction to their advantage for a long time. Let the labor market correct itself in the short term and it’ll likely soon be better for everyone. If employers can’t handle the onerous government rules for employers, I can readily sympathize, but then they should focus on demanding change in those rules, not in improvements to proper employee/contractor classifications.

    Tom Servo in reply to filiusdextris. | December 17, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    just to play along, the Stupidity in the California law, in the way it which it relates to online Media, is that outlets like Vox have 49 other states where it’s business as usual. This just kicks out all of the California people who are getting paid. The “employment market working itself out” is that all of these jobs go to other states.

    The Uber/Lyft restrictions are only being put into place because the mob bosses who run the taxi drivers unions paid the legislators to keep their cash flow up.

There’s always a silver lining.

You can thank Gavin Nutcase and the rest of the Kalifornia Democrats for this.

the only law that remains constant in California is the one related to unintended consequences

Since when are these consequences unintended?

Learn to code itches.