Statement on Legislative Threats to Freelance Writers
From the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Inc.
For more than 70 years, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Inc., has recognized and endorsed the guarantees of free speech and an unfettered press established in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and the promise of equal protection under the laws set out in the Fourteenth Amendment. Our dedication to these basic principles of writing with a free hand is part of the organization's Constitution, which includes the improvement of "professional conditions for the independent writer" as one of ASJA's principal purposes. Our mission statement reflects our on-going intention to "represent freelancers' interests, serving as spokesperson for their right to control and profit from the uses of their work wherever it appears."
In this context, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Inc., opposes legislative efforts to restrict the ability of independent writers to work as they choose without governmental interference. The organization stands in solidarity with our members and with all freelancers facing threats to their livelihoods as a result of laws and legislation aimed at either prohibiting or restricting their work as independent entrepreneurs.
The American Society of Journalists and Authors, Inc., recognizes that misclassification of workers as independent contractors when they deserve treatment as employees is a serious problem in many—but certainly not all—sectors of the labor market. We in no way condone the exploitation of workers by their employers. Trying to solve the problem by painting all independent workers with the same overly broad brush, however, ignores a robust community of freelance writers who choose independent career paths. Such legislation is both short-sighted and ultimately counterproductive. We urge the country's lawmakers to respect the constitutional rights and personal preferences of freelancers when considering legislation that redefines the status of independent contractors. Legislation that includes freelance writers in the general class of allegedly exploited workers is an attempt to solve a problem that does not exist and will cause immeasurable harm.
Milton C. Toby JD
American Society of Journalists and Authors, Inc.
Reprinted by permission. (I am a member of ASJA)
• California Bill Makes App-Based Companies Treat Workers as Employees (Kate Conger and Noam Scheiber, NY Times, 11-9-19) ("California legislators approved a landmark bill on Tuesday that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees, a move that could reshape the gig economy and that adds fuel to a yearslong debate over whether the nature of work has become too insecure....A coalition of labor groups is pushing similar legislation in New York, and bills in Washington State and Oregon that were similar to California’s but failed to advance could see renewed momentum. New York City passed a minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers last year but did not try to classify them as employees."
• AB5 gig work bill: All your questions answered (Carolyn Said, SF Chronicle, 9-16-19)
• Top Dems change ‘gig worker’ bill after freelancers said it would force them to leave N.J. (Sophie Nieto-Munoz | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
• Just a Platform? Instacart Workers Strike at the Gig Economy’s Favorite Lie (Jacob Rosenberg, Mother Jones, 11-21-19) “Their argument is that they’re a marketplace. They’re a software company. They’re just connecting—that’s just not true.” Instacart is a grocery-shopping service valued at nearly $8 billion that doesn’t pay the people who buy and deliver the groceries enough to live, those workers say.