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Bill to give 'gig economy' workers collective bargaining rights is done for the year

Diane Hohen, with TaskRabbit, delivers a bouquet of flowers in Boston in 2012. (Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Diane Hohen, with TaskRabbit, delivers a bouquet of flowers in Boston in 2012. (Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images)

One of the most talked-about bills in the state Capitol is done for the year.

Tuesday morning, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) pulled her effort to allow Uber, Task Rabbit and other workers in the so-called gig economy to collectively bargain for their pay and benefits. The complicated measure would forge new ground in labor law by creating a class of worker that was neither employee nor independent contractor in an effort to allow gig economy workers to better advocate for themselves while maintaining flexibility.

Gonzalez said in a statement that she will keep working on the issue and plans to take it up again in the next legislative session. As much as 20% of the state’s workforce doesn't have sufficient job protections because they’re involved in for-hire work, she said.

“The issue is complex,” Gonzalez said. “The law is untested. The challenge is essential.”

The bill cleared its first legislative hurdle at a committee hearing Monday afternoon, but received strong pushback from the California Chamber of Commerce and tech industry advocates. Barry Broad, a Teamsters lobbyist, also raised questions about the difficulty in coordinating bargaining efforts from so many diverse interests.

“Let's say you took an example of Uber with 180,000 drivers,” Broad said. “You could have 100 unions running after groups of people which would be difficult to distraction for the union and crazy to distraction for hosting platform.”

Gonzalez had long signaled that because of the issue’s complexities she didn’t expect it to pass this year, but she hoped to get something to Gov. Jerry Brown before he leaves office at the end of 2018.

“It's too new for people,” she said after Monday’s committee hearing.

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