Reason Roundup

California Freelancers Suffer From Totally Predictable 'Unintended Consequences' of Gig Worker Protection Bill

Plus: Is there anything the upcoming spending bill doesn't contain? And more...


Vox Media is laying off hundreds of freelance writers and editors due to a new California law that was sold as a way to protect the state's contingent workforce. That law, AB5, was adopted in September. To comply, New York-based Vox Media would have had to reclassify many of the freelancers it uses for sports platform SB Nation as full-time staff.

Instead, the company decided to cancel the contracts of some 200 or so freelancers that now work for SB Nation. It will "replace them with 20 new part-time and full-time staffers," a "source familiar with the decision" told the Los Angeles Times.

AB5 "makes it impossible for us to continue with our current California team site structure because it restricts contractors from producing more than 35 written content 'submissions' per year," explained SB Nation's John Ness.

Vox Media's flagship publication, Vox, previously called the California legislation "a victory for workers everywhere."

A lot of folks are now describing freelancer firings as an "unintended consequence" of AB5. But this facet of the bill was well-known and discussed beforehand.

It's not an "unintended consequence" so much as one that folks who wanted to stick it to Uber and Lyft (or at least get press for pretending to stick it to Uber and Lyft) deemed an acceptable consequence.

Mainstream politicians and pundits love to cite "unintended consequences" when their preferred policies cause harm in the exact ways libertarians said they would. It's a brilliant way to get credit for trying to Do! Something! about a problem while absolving one's side of any blame for the negative consequences of that action.