Capitol Alert

California bill to unionize ‘gig’ workers likely dead for 2016

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego is photographed on the west steps of the Capitol on Sunday, June 4, 2015 in Sacramento.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego is photographed on the west steps of the Capitol on Sunday, June 4, 2015 in Sacramento. rpench@sacbee.com

Legislation allowing gig workers in the tech industry to unionize will likely go no further in 2016.

The soaring popularity of businesses that can summon help through an app, from rides to grocery shopping to apartment cleaning, has pushed policymakers to think about the employment rights of people who work for those companies. The law considers most of those people independent contractors, which means they are not entitled to employment rights like wage guarantees or the ability to collectively bargain.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, authored Assembly Bill 1727 to let them band together and bargain with employers. It followed Uber and Lyft drivers winning the right to unionize in Seattle, a goal they achieved with organized labor’s help over the industry’s objections.

We want this to come out right.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego

But now Gonzalez has pulled the bill from its next committee vote. Since the deadline to get bills out of policy committees is Friday, the pause means the legislation is likely done for the year.

“We want this to come out right,” Gonzalez said in an interview. “We just want to make sure as we create the legal framework that most people are comfortable and we’re not just jamming something through.”

“I’d like to get it to this governor’s desk,” Gonzalez added. Gov. Jerry Brown terms out of office in 2018.

Business groups like the California Chamber of Commerce and the Internet Association, a technology industry lobbying group, opposed the bill. Labor groups including the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers were in support.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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