A Lyft driver and passenger. Courtesy Lyft

The state Assembly took aim at the growing gig economy in California by passing a bill Wednesday that limits the use of independent contractors in most industries.

Assembly Bill 5, authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, would codify into law a state Surpreme Court decision last last year that defined independent contracting status.

The bill passed 53-11 and now heads to the state Senate. Gonzalez, a Democrat, was joined by fellow Democrats Todd Gloria, Tasha Boerner Horvath, Brian Maienschein and Shirley Weber in the San Diego County delegation. San Diego Republicans Marie Waldron and Randy Voepel voted against the legislation.

California workers ranging from Lyft and Uber drivers to truck owner-operators to software developers to freelance writers would be required under the bill to become employees of most companies they do work for. By some estimates, millions of California workers, mostly younger, would be affected the the law.

“Big businesses shouldn’t be able to pass their costs onto taxpayers while depriving workers of the labor law protections they are rightfully entitled to. Thank you to my Assembly colleagues for the bipartisan support today,” said Gonzalez in a tweet.

The bill specifies that an independent contractor can only perform “work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.” Otherwise, the contractor must become an employee.

Lobbyists for various affected industries have been able to carve out exceptions in the text of the bill. Those include insurance agents, some health care professionals, stock brokers, real estate agents and hair stylists.

Lyft and Uber have been particularly vocal in opposition to the measure. “Lyft strongly opposes AB 5, which would force ridesharing drivers into shift work, eliminating the control drivers currently have over their own schedules,” the company said in a statement after the vote.

California labor unions were major supporters of the bill and cheered the vote. “We applaud the California Assembly for standing with workers by passing AB 5. We can’t continue to devalue the California Dream by allowing greedy employers to misclassify and shortchange workers,” said SEIU California on Twitter.

But Assembly Republican leader Waldron, who represents north San Diego County, said codifying what she termed a “disastrous” ruling doesn’t help working Californians. “Employers who misclassify workers should be punished, but destroying the business model that contractors around the state have built careers on isn’t the way to address that issue,” she said.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.