Former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego received a scathing rebuke from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on March 17 for her blatant “animus” and “pure spite” directed at Uber and other companies when crafting her disastrous anti-independent contractor law, Assembly Bill 5, passed in 2019.
Having retired from the state legislature in 2022, the self-proclaimed “Latina troublemaker” now leads the California Labor Federation — the same organization that sponsored AB 5 and oversaw numerous carveouts bestowed on favored professions explicitly denied to app-based rideshare and delivery.
As it turns out, behaving like a Big Labor bully while authoring a bill that puts hundreds of thousands of Californians out of work didn’t sit well with the 9th Circuit, which wrote:
“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.”
In its unanimous decision, the 9th Circuit reinstated the 2019 lawsuit initiated by Uber and Postmates, sending it back to the lower court that erred dismissing it back in February 2020. Key to the decision was the arbitrary bequeathing of exemptions to similarly situated app-based platforms such as TaskRabbit and Wag!, while “singling out” Uber, Postmates and others with “animus rather than reason.”
“The desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest,” the court wrote. “Plaintiffs plausibly allege that the primary impetus for the enactment of AB 5 was the disfavor with which the architect of the legislation viewed Uber, Postmates, and similar gig-based models.”
The court cited Gonzalez’s own damning tweets, interviews, statements and a Washington Post op-ed, even suggesting that AB 5 is rooted in “corruption, pure spite, and naked favoritism.”
Indeed, the judges’ line of questioning at the July 13, 2022, hearing signaled their dismay at Gonzalez’s “shocking statements,” noting that Uber was the focus of her attention. The plaintiffs’ complaint included a list of disparaging remarks by Gonzalez, such as calling Uber’s chief legal counsel “full of shit” on Sept. 18, 2019 — the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 5 into law.
In attempting to defend the many inconsistencies of AB 5 to the 9th Circuit, the state’s deputy attorney general, Jose Zelidon-Zepeda, withered under questioning. In a brutal indictment of the law itself, the court wrote: “It is notable that during oral argument, counsel for defendants was unable to articulate a conceivable rationale for AB 5 that explains exemptions made by AB 5, as amended.”
It was the second win in a week for rideshare after a California appeals court upheld that Proposition 22 is mostly constitutional, allowing Uber, Lyft and other app-based platforms to classify their drivers as independent contractors. In typical fashion, Gonzalez cried foul after that ruling, ironically alleging that companies were allowed to “buy their way out of our state’s labor laws” and that “the system is broken.”
She is uncharacteristically mute, however, about the 9th Circuit’s decision. Undaunted, she is now applauding President Biden’s recent decision to nominate her pal Julie Su as U.S. Secretary of Labor. From 2019–2022, Su was California’s labor secretary who championed AB 5’s passage and aggressively oversaw its enforcement.
Julie Su’s nomination should be opposed by any U.S. Senator who claims to stand with workers against powerful interest groups. The fight against AB 5 and similar laws must continue on behalf of all professions and sectors harmed by these destructive policies.
Karen Anderson is the founder of Freelancers Against AB 5.