California Freelance Slayer Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher's Ego Wrote Checks Her Mouth Couldn't Cash

California legislator Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-Evita) is leaving her perch as Destroyer of Worlds. The author of the state’s union-written, anti-independent contractor law, she’s moving on to head the biggest union organization in California. While for the last nine years Gonzalez’s day job has been a California Assemblybirthingperson, in 2020 her side hustle was a human neutron bomb – she destroyed lives and left buildings standing.

Gonzalez is the credited author of AB5 (a precursor to the federal PROAct), which was borne from a case called Dynamex v Superior Court, regarding the employment status (or lack thereof) of independent truck drivers. Gonzalez and her union allies read the opinion in that case as a license to destroy, and destroy they did, but not before the rich and powerful lobbied Gonzalez for exemptions. Exempt from the new law were lawyers, doctors, CPAs, among other favored professions.

Also exempted were newspaper delivery drivers. Yes, independent drivers. If you paused and pondered, wasn’t Dynamex — the company at issue in the lawsuit leading to the “need” for AB5 — employing independent drivers, and wasn’t Gonzalez all about the “common worker”? Wasn’t AB5 designed specifically to “protect” these common workers? Why were they exempt? Those drivers didn’t have a lobby per se – they were freelancing for newspapers. Ah, but Gonzalez needed newspapers. Newspapers were her allies. They happily regurgitated her claims, and magically newspaper delivery drivers were exempted. Independent writers? Nope.

Passed in 2019, AB5 became law on January 1, 2020, and its job-killing effect was immediately apparent (and even before then; just ask writers at Vox Media). Freelance writers were told by clients they couldn’t continue their freelance contracts with magazines, newspapers, journals, and the like. Working on December 31st, out of work on January 1st.

Gonzalez’s campaign to outlaw the gig economy can be summed up as, “We must kill you to save you.” It became apparent even before AB5 became law that much of the “law” had nothing to do with the Dynamex ruling; neither is AB5 founded in the real world of employment or logic. Beyond the carve-outs for favored professions (like my exempted career as a lawyer), she and her union hacks had written in a “limit” of 35 pieces for freelance creatives (such as writers and cartoonists). A freelancer could submit 35 pieces to a particular client, but then they’re done. For instance, an artist could submit 35 pieces of work to a client but number 36 turned them into an employee. Where did the number 35 come from? Not from Dynamex. Not from any other labor code or case law or statute.  Not from any industry statistics. She invented it out of thin air – and she admitted it.

In January of 2020 I was told by my Los Angeles Times editors that once I hit 35 cartoons, I was done. And it happened. My LA Times feature cartoon disappeared for a time, and I became active as a political cartoonist all due to Gonzalez being an arrogant hack. Allow me to explain.

After I was told by the LA Times to sit the rest of the year out, I posted a comment on Twitter about AB5.

Re: why I am not cartooning for LA Times #AB5 – a monumentally stupid and poorly drafted law put me on the sideline. My editors at @latimessports supported me, but their hands were tied. To those who looked forward to my cartoons each Saturday, Thank You

Even though I hadn’t tagged her, Gonzalez saw it and commented. She happily replied to me:

I’m sorry to hear that. The submission cap should be lifted in one month.

Her comment was regarding a “fix-it” bill she authored and got passed (with a continued exemption for newspaper carriers). After AB5 became law it was abundantly clear even to a union hack like Lorena that thousands upon thousands of livelihoods in California were destroyed on January 1, 2020 – thanks to her – and normally very liberal artists were calling for her head instead of supporting her. Because of that, and not out of the goodness of her heart, Gonzalez spent nine months (yes, nine months) drafting a “fix” to her ruinous law with a new bill, AB2257. That law was only signed after none other than Willie Brown harassed Gavin Newsom to do so (Brown’s op-ed gig at the San Francisco Chronicle was being impacted!). Her invented 35-piece limit was removed.

I was helped, but thousands were still were ruined. The damage was done. Gonzalez taking credit for the “fix-it” law is like an arsonist who starts a fire then takes credit for pulling out a garden hose to “save” the building she burned down. Her “I fixed it” reply only angered me, and I shot back:

Sorry? Well, if you’re sorry – I’ll ask the bank if it will cash that check. The #AB5 abomination was drafted a year ago. Anyone with working prefrontal cortex knew, last year, it was a disaster in the making. Took a yr to ‘fix’ it. Umm Thanks?

By that point some California writers had gone nine months with little-to-no income, but Gonzalez’s “my bad, fixed it now” should satisfy their creditors, right?

I followed up with months of lampooning her, and those months have turned into years.

She activated me. I was converted from a sports cartoonist to a writer and political cartoonist.

I wasn’t the only one activated. Lorena’s antics, anti-business laws, and targeted harassment drove Elon Musk and Tesla out of California and led to the passage of Proposition 22 in November 2020, which rolled back AB5 as far as app-based gig companies/workers were concerned. At least one Democrat ally lost her bid for Congress in significant part because of her vote for AB5 and continued vocal support. While Gonzalez was once considered a shoo-in for any gubernatorial appointment, by the end of 2020 Gavin Newsom saw the writing on the wall and publicly snubbed Lorena when filling three significant offices: US Senator, Attorney General, and Secretary of State. There, too, her ego wrote checks her mouth couldn’t cash.

Given the changes in my professional life, perhaps I should send the new union head a “Thank You” note. But I doubt she’s happy for me.