By Karen Anderson | The Coast News Group 04-07-2023
“Corruption.” “Backroom dealing.” “Pure spite.” “Naked favoritism.”
These are the words written by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to describe former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s bad behavior when crafting her anti-independent contractor law AB 5 (Assembly Bill 5), enacted in January 2020.
The court’s recent decision resurrected an older lawsuit from 2019 (Olson v. State of California) that had been dismissed outright by a lower court in February 2020.
Appealed by Uber and Postmates, the case had fallen under the radar until March 17, 2023, when the Ninth Circuit issued its unanimous decision, stating: “The plausibility of Plaintiffs’ allegations is strengthened by the piecemeal fashion in which the exemptions were granted, and lends credence to Plaintiffs’ allegations that the exemptions were the result of ‘lobbying’ and ‘backroom dealing’ as opposed to adherence to the stated purpose of the legislation.”
The case has now been sent back to the lower court for reconsideration. In its decision, the 9th Circuit cited Gonzalez no less than 14 times by name. The judges expressed dismay at the arbitrary exemptions bestowed to favored sectors by Gonzalez herself with the help of the bill’s sponsor, the California Labor Federation, which represents 1,200 unions in the state.
Exemplifying Sacramento’s incestuous relationship with Big Labor, Gonzalez has since left her District 80 Assembly seat last year to become head of the California Labor Federation.
According to the court, the exemptions, which pick winners and losers, explicitly exclude Uber et al. even though similarly situated app platforms like Wag! and TaskRabbit received exemptions for such workers as dog walkers and yard cleaners.
In trying to defend Gonzalez’s poorly drafted law during oral arguments on July 13, 2022, the state’s deputy attorney general withered under questioning from the three- judge panel. It was notable, the court wrote, that counsel for the state was “unable to articulate a conceivable rationale for AB 5 that explains the exemptions made by AB 5, as amended.”
Because of Gonzalez’s blatant “animus not based in reason” directed at the plaintiffs, the Ninth Circuit also concluded that AB 5 plausibly violates the equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment.
The court’s brutal indictment of AB 5 hinged on Gonzalez’s “shocking statements,” tweets, and disparaging remarks against Uber, et al. One such statement (cited in the plaintiff’s complaint) was when Gonzalez called Uber’s chief legal officer Tony West (aka Kamala Harris’s brother-in-law) “full of shit” on September 18, 2019 — the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 5 into law.
Meanwhile, those of us who have witnessed the ongoing dumpster fire of AB 5 since its inception know that Gonzalez’s animus extended to specific local businesses as well
Here in San Diego, Gonzalez trained her sights on local news outlets she viewed as adversaries.
There can be no doubt, in fact, that Gonzalez displayed specific, targeted animus toward The Coast News when she publicly and falsely accused the family-owned newspaper in 2020 of firing all its employees with the goal of converting them to independent contractors in violation of AB 5.
Chris Kydd, the associate publisher at The Coast News Group, told KUSI-TV at the time that Gonzalez’s statements were 100% false.
“On top of the carelessness of her claims, what she said was potentially damaging to our business as it brings the credibility of The Coast News Group and our brand into question,” Kydd said. “We are a media entity who has been respected in the community for over 30 years, and we remain one of the few independently owned news sources in San Diego.”