California legislation introduced last week would give workers in the gig economy the right to collectively bargain for benefits and wages.
Co-authored by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Assembly Bill 1727 — also known as “The California 1099 Self-Organizing Act” — would grant several workplace rights currently only available to employees to independent contractors who perform their work through a hosting platform. These rights include negotiating as a group; communicating with customers and the public; boycotting or critiquing a hosting platform’s business practices; and reporting publicly or to law enforcement any practices which an independent contractor reasonably believes violates local, state or federal law and adversely affect either workers or clients.
“California has led the way in innovating our economy through technology, and our laws must catch up to that innovation in order to do right by the workers in this state,” Gonzalez said. “This bill ensures that the millions of Californians who aren’t treated as employees, including workers in the evolving gig economy, simply have the option to organize and collectively bargain for better pay and working conditions for themselves for the work that they perform.”
The Internet Association, which represents US Internet companies, opposes the proposal.
“The Internet industry is concerned by … AB 1727,” President and CEO Michael Beckerman said in a statement. “For millions of Americans, the sharing economy is an important safety net that offers flexible earning opportunities. Individuals are now able, like never before, to work for themselves and earn money how, when, and where they want. Independent contractors are prevalent in every industry, but this proposal unfairly targets the Internet sector in a way that could hurt the very people it purports to help.”
In December, Seattle passed a law allowing independent contractor drivers who work for the same company, such as Uber or Lyft, to unionize. However, the US Chamber of Commerce recently sued to stop the new ordinance. The chamber warned in a court filing that the law could “Balkanize” the market for independent contractor services.