From Vice, Cameron Joseph reports that Senator Kamala Harris supports AB5, the California bill that adopts the ABC test for classifying workers as employees or independent contractors. Cameron writes:
Kamala Harris is backing a landmark California labor bill that could upend the gig economy and hand workers significantly more rights, a stand that’s at odds with her own brother-in-law as well as a top campaign adviser who also works for Uber.
Harris’s campaign tells VICE News that she supports a bill working its way through her state’s legislature that would codify a California Supreme Court ruling that could force gig economy companies like Uber, Lyft, Doordash and Postmates to give their workers more rights and higher pay.That 2018 court ruling, known as Dynamex, put the onus on companies to prove their workers aren’t employees rather than independent contractors who have far fewer legal rights. The pending legislation, AB5, defines which industries are exempt from that ruling. Gig companies like Uber aren’t included, meaning they may have to dramatically change how they compensate their workers, and what legal rights and protections those workers have.
Among them: minimum wage, overtime pay, and a right to unionize.
“She supports AB5 and what the California Supreme Court held in Dynamex, and she believes we need to go even further to bolster worker protections and benefits and elevate the voice of workers,” Harris campaign spokesman Ian Sams told VICE News. “In our evolving economy, she believes it’s critical we ensure a robust social safety net for all workers and support their right to join a union.”
That newly announced position seems to put Harris at odds with her own brother-in-law as well as a top campaign adviser. Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West is married to Maya Harris, Kamala’s sister and campaign chairwoman. West and Harris are close — he was actively involved in her runs for San Francisco district attorney, their families routinely vacation together, and he’s long been a power player in California Democratic fundraising circles — though he has no direct role in the campaign.
Laphonza Butler has also been doing consulting work for Uber at the same time she’s been working on Harris’s presidential campaign.“Drivers don’t want to be employees,” West recently claimed in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, arguing instead for a new “framework to support individuals who choose independent work” rather than classifying drivers as employees.
When asked in that interview if his Uber position causes “any dissent” at home, West said “no.”
California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D), AB5’s chief sponsor, said she was glad Harris was on board with the legislation.
Gonzalez met with West early in the bill’s process, and said from what she heard in that meeting and in his recent public remarks, he and Harris “don’t appear to be in the same place” on the legislation.
Harris has been vocal about supporting legal changes to protect against the misclassification of gig workers — she cosponsored Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 2018 bill backing a national “ABC test” that creates a much higher burden of proof for companies to say their workers are contractors and not employees that’s similar to the California Supreme Court ruling. She also tweeted support of a one-day national strike of Lyft and Uber drivers earlier this year: