A major complaint among Californians affected by the state’s anti-freelancing law, AB5, is that the labor unions wrote it and essentially paid for its passage and that the purpose was to enrich unions by creating millions of new “employees” to “organize.” The bill’s author, Asm. Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher (D-Teamster) has admitted that the California Labor Federation sponsored the bill but denies that the unions ensured its passage, saying that its purpose was to provide benefits and a guaranteed minimum wage.
One of the most powerful politicians to have ever graced the floor of the California State Assembly, former Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) had extremely harsh words about the bill and labor unions Saturday.
For those not familiar, Willie Brown is not only one of the most powerful politicians to have ever graced the floor of the California State Assembly; he’s been the most powerful Democrat in the state since the 1960s. At age 86, he still wields considerable power as a “kingmaker” in the state. After serving 32 years in the Assembly (the length of his tenure was one of the main reasons Californians passed term limits in 1990), Brown was Mayor of San Francisco for eight years and was succeeded by his protege, Gavin Newsom. Of course, it’s common knowledge that Kamala Harris’ political career started when Brown appointed her to a do-nothing state commission then helped her become the elected District Attorney of San Francisco.
His enduring power was on display this week when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB2257 into law on Friday, just four days after its passage, because of pressure from Brown and his associates. (AB2257 is touted as a clean-up bill for AB5 and lifts the submission cap of 35 pieces a year for freelance writers.) Brown wanted it signed immediately because, as a weekly columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, he had hit his limit and they were prohibited from publishing additional columns until AB2257 was signed.
Newsom on Friday took action that will assist his former mentor by signing AB 2257, a bill passed by the Legislature in the final hours of the legislative session Monday to address the concerns of freelance writers, photographers and musicians who said their livelihoods were at danger. The bill takes effect immediately because it was written as an urgency measure and received two-thirds support.
“I signed the bill, write the damn column!,’’ Newsom wrote to Brown in a text message that Brown shared with POLITICO.
Newsom had up to 30 days to sign the bill, so it’s significant that he signed it only three days after passage.
Since it’s an election year, he told Politico, “this is the most important year,” and fumed:
“Lyft has never obeyed AB 5 .. I don’t know anybody that has, except the Chronicle,” Brown fumed of the move by Hearst Newspapers’ flagship publication. “For 12-plus years, every Sunday, I’ve written that column in the paper and never taken a vacation. And this is the most important year. This is a campaign year, when there’s really a contest.”
Brown apparently has not paid attention this year, because thousands of California freelance writers have lost their contracts precisely because the publishing entities ARE obeying the law – in addition to the hundreds of other professions that have been impacted.
He told Politico‘s Carla Marinucci that “the incident not only showed the weaknesses in AB 5, but also in its application.” Many have described Gonzalez-Fletcher as the most powerful woman in Sacramento, very much in Brown’s mold. But Brown had brutal comments for Gonzalez-Fletcher, her organized labor sponsors, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon:
“If there was a place to picket organized labor, I’d do it today,” Brown said. “If there was a place to picket a legislator, I’d do it,” he said. As Assembly speaker, “I made sure that special interests, no matter who they were — labor or non labor — did not take advantage of the Legislature,” but he said it was clear this time was not the case.
“Those bastards,” he added.
Gonzalez-Fletcher’s days of influence in Sacramento may be numbered after that slam. There’s already bad blood between San Francisco Democrats and Los Angeles/San Diego Democrats, and Gonzalez-Fletcher’s already made Gavin Newsom’s life more difficult this year by failing to negotiate clean-up provisions for AB5 and by publicly battling with Elon Musk, a long-time friend of Newsom and major job creator in the state. Now that Willie Brown apparently sees that Rendon doesn’t have control of his chamber and Gonzalez-Fletcher is allowing organized labor to control state policy it’s going to be interesting to see what ramifications there are for Gonzalez-Fletcher, who’s planning a Secretary of State run in 2022.