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AB5 and the threat to California newspapers

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by HanSenSE, Sep 8, 2019.

  1. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Fourth time this week the local BANG paper has run an editorial against California AB5,which would reclassify contract workers, aka "gig employees" as employees of the organization. Several groups have successfully sought exemptions in the bill, such as lawyers, accountants and real estate agents.

    Among those not exempted? Newspaper carriers, which is the bone of contention, since adding them to the staff would mean health benefits, etc. , adding to the general gloom and doom of the industry. The governor has indicated he'll sign the bill after it has worked its way through the legislature, announcing his support, ironically, in a column in the Sacramento Bee on Labor Day.

    Don’t let AB 5 take away your newspaper | Editorial – Santa Cruz Sentinel
  2. ChrisLong

    ChrisLong Well-Known Member

    Six or seven years ago, the OC Register lost a lawsuit over the delivery people being employees. It was a $35 million setback to the already-inept Aaron Kushner-Eric Spitz realm.
  3. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Anything that makes it harder to find and keep newspaper delivery people — it's brutally tough already — would probably lead to U.S. mail delivery and/or fewer days of print editions.

    Also: Everything about AB 5 confuses the hell out of me. Maybe you Californians can tell me what prompted this bill; was a certain group of "gig employees," such as Uber drivers, causing problems/layoffs of full-time cab drivers, say? Just wondering.
  4. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Well-Known Member

    I am not a Californian. But I read the editorial.

    The Santa Cruz Sentinel is a DFM paper, which means it is an ex-Singleton shop. I also suspect that until about 2009 it made a hell of a lot of money as the only paper in an affluent county. Back in the day I was a paperboy for another paper that Singleton eventually bought, the Denver Post, I was an independent contractor. But my route manager who dropped off my papers was am employee of the Post, got paid vacation, health benefits and I bet he got a pension (I think he might have been in a union).

    But newspapers all over the country figured out ways to move these duties to independent contractors. Which means there was no longer a pension, no longer health insurance, no paid vacation and maybe no days off. In what was a very profitable industry. Singleton built his empire by coming in and doing things like this.

    The editorial said that the contractors enjoy being small businessmen and finding someone to do their jobs when they take a day off (paid vacation, bah). And I doubt like hell they get benefits. As for being independent businessmen how much independence do they exercise in their job? They have to show up, run prescribed routes, receive a fee determined by the paper, and have the paper delivered by a certain time. As I understand Uber at least their drivers can bid for jobs and hence rates. Newspaper guys can not. Similar things happened in many industries.

    I agree there is the age old argument of worker protections add to employers costs and hence drive the workers into unemployment. This might well be true in today's publishing industry. Historically Democrats have discounted the latter argument and focused on improving employee benefits while Republicans have focused on the potential loss of jobs. But California is turning into a one party state.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
    2muchcoffeeman and I Should Coco like this.
  5. Amy

    Amy Well-Known Member

    It appears the legislature is trying to address the California Supreme Court’s changing the employee/independent contractor test last year in Dynamex

    CA - AB5

  6. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    Way back in the day - when newspaper delivery was truly independent - Harry Chandler bought up all the LA Times routes giving him serious leverage over the paper. He ended up marrying the publishers daughter and became publisher.
    Of course the "independence" is bogus. There is no negotiation. And I'm really curious to see what the pay is, considering how much papers have jacked up delivery rates. A route has to be at least 300 houses these days, which probably means at least 40 miles in a car. Can you justify a route for less than $1,000 a month?

    And how funny is that the editorial when it's written by "Digital First"
  7. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Well-Known Member

    Back in the day we used to deliver about 100 homes. Denver Post penetration in middle class subdivision was about 60%. A large metro daily today would be doing well to have a 15% penetration rate. So if a route had 100 subscribers that would be about seven hundred homes.

    Does anyone know how much their local paper pays a copy to the carrier?
  8. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    That's what struck me first. One of the casualties in Santa Cruz's layoffs earlier this year was Wallace Baine, their long-time arts and entertainment writer, who took his bylines to Good Times, the local alt-weekly. Sports editor Julie Jag just got the Olympic/enterprise gig in Salt Lake City and they're not filling her spot, as she proclaimed in her farewell column.

    But this is gonna kill the papers? I'll grant it's not good, but they've been doing a heck of a job of killing themselves.
    2muchcoffeeman and Tweener like this.
  9. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    Given how dated most of the news is given the early and earlier deadlines - they may as well just drop them off at the post office and have them do it.
  10. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

  11. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    And, a reprieve ... sorta.

    AB 170, which would grant newspapers a one-year exception to AB 5, was passed late Friday and now awaits the governor's signature, per yet-another self-serving editorials only BANG can write. They went on to thank readers for putting pressure on their legislators.
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