Biden Offers Strong Support for California’s Restrictive Independent Contractor Definition

March 13, 2020

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted his support for California's controversial AB-5 law, which reclassifies thousands of independent contractors as employees, even as it continues to be the target of several campaigns to reduce its extensive scope.

As of this week, more than 30 bills have been introduced to amend, repeal, or replace the law.  Many of these measures seek to exempt specific industries from AB 5's reach.  The California Labor Federation, a key supporter of AB-5, is open to creating new exemptions within the law.  One of AB-5’s original sponsors, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, has similarly expressed an intent to introduce amendments to the law.

Multiple high-profile gig companies have thrown their support behind ballot measures to amend the law.  Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash have championed the "Protect App-Based Drivers & Services" ballot measure, with the hopes of carving an exception out of AB-5 for their drivers and couriers.  The three gig giants have spent more than $100 million on the campaign, which currently has more than 1 million signatures, making it almost certain to be put to voters in November.

Outlook:  Biden’s support for AB-5 signals that a similar narrowing of the federal definition of independent contractor would be one of his priorities.  Except for some additional exemptions, significant changes to the state law are unlikely in the interim, since the vast majority of bills introduced to amend AB-5 were put forth by Republican lawmakers in a Democratic California legislature.  Meanwhile, the law is currently the subject of four lawsuits challenging its validity.