LORENA GONZALEZ bycompany

State of California

Lorena Gonzalez

Assemblywoman of the 80th Assembly District, State of California

Lorena Gonzalez, a California assemblywoman, wants to hold companies accountable for how they treat gig workers.

Companies like Uber and Lyft made their founders and investors billionaires on the way to becoming tech behemoths and bringing reliable, cheap services to the masses. But they couldn’t have gotten there without “squeezing" drivers who paved their road to riches, says the California lawmaker whose landmark bill could upend the gig economy.

Gonzalez is the author of AB-5, a hotly contested law that makes it harder for employers to claim workers are independent contractors instead of employees — meaning many will be required to follow labor laws and pay into programs like unemployment insurance that she believes they unfairly skirted before.

AB-5’s myriad critics say it’s too broad and will reduce workers’ flexibility. But Gonzalez says it's a fault of companies — tech or otherwise — if their profitability depends on restricting workers’ schedules or taking advantage of freelancers. “They built a failing business model on venture-capital money,” Gonzalez says.

She feels that taxpayers and “law-abiding” businesses are subsidizing companies like Uber and Lyft, neither of which has turned a profit since going public.

By fighting regulations that would force them to pay higher wages or offer better benefits, Gonzalez says, companies that rely on gig workers are saying: “We don't want to follow the same rules as everybody else. We think society should pick up the rest of our tab. Nobody's held them accountable.”