California freelance writers fight state law forcing Vox Media to drop 200 sports bloggers

Protesters have focused their wrath on bill sponsor Lorena Gonzalez

Freelance writers in California are grappling with rejection letters — and decisions by sites like SB Nation to drop about 200 contractors — as part of the fallout from Assembly Bill 5, which requires companies like Uber, Lyft and Doordash to treat their gig workers as employees.

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"In the early weeks and months of 2020, we will end our contracts with most contractors at California brands," SB Nation executive director John Ness wrote in a post to California independent contractors. "This shift is part of a business and staffing strategy that we have been exploring over the past two years, but one that is also necessary in light of California’s new independent contractor law, which goes into effect January 1, 2020."

Ness said SB Nation, which is part of Vox Media, will open full-time and part-time positions for contractors to apply to, and it asked the contractors to continue to write without pay as "our new Community insiders."

California contractors, like Rebecca Lawson of SB Nation's blog Mavs Moneyball, did not seem to be pleased with the offer.

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"Today, along with literally HUNDREDS of my colleagues,'" Lawson wrote on Twitter on Monday, "I was told that I can no longer hold a paid position at SB Nation. California, you're breaking my heart (and taking my money)."

Other freelancers are wondering what the future holds, and gig workers like Uber and Lyft drivers are unsure too. The companies plan to spend millions on an alternative ballot measure to AB5, Uber said in September.

"Love to take a copy editing test I studied for all weekend and THEN find out I don’t even qualify for the job because I live in California. Add this to the #AB5 pile of rejects. I want to scream," writer Emma Gallegos wrote on Twitter. She included a screengrab of an email where a potential employer rejected her based on her residence and said the organization "was under the impression" she lived in Minnesota.

Protesters have focused their wrath on bill sponsor State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, even demonstrating at a diaper giveaway she participated in last week.

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"Do you believe us yet, Lorena Gonzalez? Do you still just 'hear' us or do 200 more writers, 1,000 more writers need to lose their jobs before you'll admit #AB5 needs to be amended? You too Gavin Newsom. The intentions were good, but execution a disaster. Fix. your. mess," writer Alisha Grauso posted on Twitter on Monday.

DoorDash CEO Tony Xu, whose company will also be affected by AB5, warned about it in October.

"It would have disastrous results if it's implemented because it's trying to impose an imperfect solution into a very big problem," Xu said during the WSJ Tech Live conference in California. "The net impact of AB5 would be a lot of lost economic opportunity and income for the state of California."