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California’s War on Gig Work Falls Hardest on Women – Ben Johnson (12/24/2019) – WallStreetWindow.com

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This year, California’s progressives decided to wage war on the nightmare of being your own boss. A new state law aimed at limiting the gig economy has already cost hundreds of people their jobs—and had a seriously harmful impact on women’s earnings and long-term happiness.

Assembly Bill 5 curbs the ability of companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their workers as independent contractors. The law, which codifies the California Supreme Court’s Dynamex decision into law, means companies in the $1 trillion gig economy would have to hire freelancers as employees and give them benefits, including healthcare coverage. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law on September 18. It takes effect on January 1.

The companies say that kind of change threatens their business model and could mean bankruptcy. It also means their newly designated employees can be unionized, a boon for organized labor. Teamsters organizers have already begun laying the groundwork.

But the law contains a provision that limits freelance writers to submitting 35 articles per outlet each year. (The bill’s author admits the number is “arbitrary.”)

Thanks to government intervention, hundreds or thousands of authors will lose their most viable source of income.

Media outlets that rely on independent content producers are scrambling to comply with the law before it takes effect in a few days—and one of them, Vox, announced it will engage in a round of mass firings.

The bill’s author, Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, said her goal is to “preserve good jobs,” but only those that pay “a livable, sustainable wage job.” Vox apparently did not fall into that category.

The hundreds of workers Vox laid off have the opportunity to apply for the new, full-time jobs the company just announced—20 of them.

Freelancers who love what they do can keep writing, explained John Ness, executive director of the Vox-owned website SB Nation, but they “need to understand they will not be paid for future contributions.”

Thanks to government intervention, hundreds or thousands of authors will lose their most viable source of income.

Freelance authors blame the law, not their employers, for turning their lives upside down. CNBC reports:

A writer named Rebecca Lawson, who covered the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks from San Diego, wrote a post on Monday titled, “California’s terrible AB5 came for me today, and I’m devastated.” Lawson, who was editor-in-chief of the blog Mavs Moneyball, said she would be forced to step down as of March 31.

“SB Nation has chosen to do the easiest thing they can to comply with California law — not work with California-based independent contractors, or any contractors elsewhere writing for California-based teams,” Lawson wrote. “I don’t blame them at all.”

The Hollywood Reporter shares the story of Arianna Jeret:

[Jeret], who contributes to relationship websites YourTango.com and The Good Men Project, says freelance writing has helped support her two children and handle their different school schedules. Her current gigs — covering mental health, lifestyle and entertainment — allow her to work from home, from the office and even from her children’s various appointments. “There were just all of these benefits for my ability to still be an active parent in my kids’ lives and also support us financially that I just couldn’t find anywhere in a steady job with anybody,” she says.

Similarly, author Kassy Dillon tweeted:

Not all those opposed to the new law are women, by any stretch of the imagination. Aaron Pruner, whose clients include The Washington Post, said, “Working with a baby at home is easier to do when I have my own schedule to work from, as opposed to a 9 to 5.”

But women bear the brunt of the government-imposed limit. Two-thirds of U.S. freelancers across industries are female, according to PayPal’s “U.S. Freelancer Insights Report.”

Curiously, the bill carved out vast exemptions. The San Francisco Chronicle revealed that lawmakers exempted a series of higher-paying professions including

doctors, psychologists, dentists, podiatrists, insurance agents, stock brokers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, veterinarians, direct sellers, real estate agents, hairstylists and barbers, aestheticians, commercial fishermen, marketing professionals, travel agents, graphic designers, grant writers, fine artists, enrolled agents, payment processing agents, repossession agents and human resources administrators.

But the politicians made no provision for freelance writers, despite months of heavy lobbying.

Freelance work empowers women to choose how they spend their time. Female workers have repeatedly told pollsters from across the globe—as far as Australia and Denmark—that their top workplace desire is the flexibility to create greater work-life balance. Some 40 percent of women say they would take a lower salary in exchange for more control over their schedule.

Freelancing lets women choose the hours they work and gives them control over their schedule. They may opt out of working altogether when someone gets ill, only to work night-and-day at other times, based on their needs and wishes. But the right to unionize Uber drivers has denied them that goal.

Employment is about more than a paycheck. Surveys show unemployment has a longer, more harmful impact on members of both sexes than any other adverse life effect, including divorce and widowhood. “For unemployment, there is a negative shock both in the short and long-run,” reports Our World in Data.

Unemployment also affects the human person in ways too profound to be measured by an earnings statement, poll, or survey. “Unemployment almost always wounds its victim’s dignity and threatens the equilibrium of his life,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Besides the harm done to him personally, it entails many risks for his family.” Pope Francis has been outspoken about the dangers of idleness. “There is no peace without employment,” he said on the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

There is no peace for California’s freelance writers, approximately two-thirds of whom are women. This is yet another example of how economic interventionism destroys jobs, harms women, and leaves hundreds of families unable to support themselves and saddled with long-term psychological burdens.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Acton Institute.

Ben  Johnson

Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). 

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.



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Egypt wants to register millions of gig workers for state insurance, aid

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CAIRO: Egypt will start registering millions of gig workers in order to offer them health insurance and emergency state aid during the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a particularly heavy toll on the nation’s ad-hoc employees, officials said.

There are at least 14 million gig workers in Egypt, and while some workers and campaigners welcomed the government’s drive, others warned that many workers could be reluctant to sign up – fearing tax and social security payment demands.

The government said it plans to identify and support two million gig workers in the country of 100 million people by the end of this year, labour ministry spokesman Haitham Saad El-Din said on Saturday.

“It is part of a government plan to give assistance to this segment of the society which has been majorly affected by the pandemic,” he said, adding that officials were focusing first on identifying casual construction labourers.

Gig workers who have their employment status registered on their national identity cards under a new “irregular employment” category will be given free social security insurance and be eligible for state welfare programmes.

Egypt’s state-run insurance plan includes life insurance and disability cover, as well as covering healthcare costs.

The announcement is the latest in a series of government measures aimed at shielding vulnerable groups from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Soon after the coronavirus outbreak began, it launched a programme that supports irregular workers with monthly aid, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for financial support to be boosted when a second virus wave took hold.

State welfare spending surged 36% in the first half of the current fiscal year, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said recently.

On the books

Some daily labourers hailed the registration drive as a positive step, saying it would help bring them into the formal economy and recognise their economic contribution.

“Millions of Egyptians have been affected by this pandemic but it’s really good that the government is not leaving us behind,” said Farouk Mahmoud, 35, a temporary worker from the city of Sohag.

Still, while the latest data puts the number of gig workers at 14 million, the real number may be much higher – making registering them a daunting administrative task, said Bassant Fahmi, a member of parliament’s economic affairs committee.

Some workers may also be wary about being on the books.

“Many of them may fear being asked afterwards to pay taxes or insurance. That could mean a lot of gig workers avoiding being identified by the government,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But besides any misgivings about being under the government’s radar, many gig workers in Egypt are more concerned about the dearth of permanent job opportunities – especially for young people – and the health of the wider economy.

“It isn’t crucial for me to have a job on my ID,” said Abanoub Lotfi, a 26-year-old driver for ride-hailing service Uber, who has a degree in commerce.

“What really matters is that the government offers me a stable job that suits my academic background and helps me afford my needs and those of my family.” – Thomson Reuters Foundation



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Self-employed, gig workers still waiting on PPP rules for bigger loans

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Virojt Changyencham | Moment | Getty Images

The self-employed and gig workers are anxiously waiting for the Small Business Association to update guidelines to its Paycheck Protection Program, which could mean bigger loans for the group.

The Biden administration announced last week changes to how the SBA will calculate forgivable loans for sole proprietors and other small businesses without any employees. The updated formula — which will likely lead to larger loan amounts for non-employer firms, including sole proprietors and independent contractors — will be announced this week.

It’s still unclear when in the week the SBA will update its guidelines, meaning that those who would benefit from the change should still wait to submit their applications for the program.

More from Invest in You:
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“Loans submitted prior to the official rule changes are subject to the rules in effect at the time of application,” said Carol Wilkerson, an SBA spokesperson.

That’s led to frustration for some who want to take advantage of the two-week priority application window for the smallest businesses that went into effect on Feb. 24 and ends the second week of March. Of course, sole proprietors will still be able to apply for PPP loans until the program deadline at the end of the month; they just won’t get priority treatment once the 14-day exclusivity window closes.

For now, lenders are working to help borrowers prepare what they can to be ready for the updated guidelines.

“We’ve always taken the approach of, ‘Hey, we don’t have all the answers, but let’s proceed as far as we can without the answers,'” said Ed Barry, CEO of Capital Bank, based in Rockville, Maryland.

Barry added that the bank is also working to build awareness among small businesses that may not realize that they’re now eligible for a PPP loan.

What is known about the formula change so far

For firms with employees, maximum PPP loans are 2.5 times average monthly payroll costs, per the SBA. As a stand-in for payroll costs for solo workers, the SBA used net profit information from tax returns, even though payroll and profit are different measures.

In addition, the net profit line includes deductions, which reduced or eliminated profit numbers for some, yielding small loans or making them ineligible for the program.

The updated formula will instead use gross income as a stand-in for payroll costs, a larger number than net income, meaning many firms will get more money in forgivable loans.

Loans submitted prior to the official rule changes are subject to the rules in effect at the time of application.

Carol Wilkerson

SBA spokesperson

“It’s a tremendous change,” said Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed.

The change is important, as sole proprietorships are the most common business structure in the U.S. The IRS says there are some 41 million self-employed people in the country and, in 2018, more than 27 million had filed a return with an IRS 1040 Schedule C form for sole proprietors, according the agency.

Many of these businesses have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. About 70% of such firms with no employees are owned by women and people of color, and 95% of Black-owned and 91% of Latino-owned firms are sole proprietorships, according to SBA data.

But so far, very little forgivable funding from the SBA has gone to sole proprietorships — according to a recent survey from NASE, nearly two-thirds of its members said they didn’t get any money from the program.

Much of that was due to confusion in the early days of the program around eligibility and forgiveness, which are hopefully clearer today, Hall said.

“Many of the reasons that those small-business owners did not either apply or get approved for a PPP loan — I think many of those barriers have been removed,” he said.

Questions remain

To be sure, other changes to the PPP program that the Biden administration announced last week do go into effect today, March 1 — some student loan borrowers, legal non-residents and those with certain criminal records are now eligible to apply for forgivable loans.

Still, there are further questions for sole proprietors around the timing of applications, especially for those who already got a loan approved but would get more under the new formula. So far, there isn’t a process for amending a dispersed loan, or holding back an application that’s currently pending.

“All unknowns right now,” said Alex Cohen, CEO of Liberty SBF.

If you’re a small business with a story to share about PPP, email Carmen Reinicke at carmen.reinicke@nbcuni.com

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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Dream realised in compelling live gig

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MATT KEEGAN
Mary’s Underground, February 28

★★★★

In another bid to reach beyond the musical horizon, Matt Keegan composed Vienna Dreaming as a tribute to his great grandfather, Heini Portnoj, an Austrian Jew forced to abandon his musical career in Vienna to escape the rising tide of Nazism. Three years after releasing a recording of the suite, Keegan finally presented this ambitious music in concert.

Matt Keegan and Veronique Serret. Shane Rozario

Matt Keegan and Veronique Serret. Shane RozarioCredit:Shane Rozario

Its strength lies not only in the imagination brought to bear, but in Keegan’s empathy for his subject, his intent being to slide inside the mind of his great grandfather, both as events unfolded in 1930s and in the aftermath, with Portnoj looking back after settling in Australia.

The concert’s instrumentation and personnel differed from the album, with only Keegan (clarinet, saxophone) and drummer Miles Thomas being shared. The album’s cello now became Veronique Serret’s violin and the double bass became Brendan Clark’s electric bass, with Ben Hauptmann (electric guitar) and Freyja Garbett (keyboards) completing the cast. These changes were much more than cosmetic, with the improvisational aspect of the work expanded, allowing for some startling individual contributions, most notably from Serret.

As consistently strong as the suite was, the opening Vienna Overture was especially compelling, with the main waltz-time theme materialising from skimming fragments of sound, dissolving back into those fragments and reassembling itself yet again – an evocation of an elderly Portnoj musing on an impossibly different time and place, long, long ago.

As with the album, the sound was carefully calibrated to shift between the familiar – the bruising intensity of Keegan’s baritone saxophone, for instance – and an extreme use of electronic treatments, including occasionally radical reverb and delay on the drums, amplifying the work’s prevailing oneiric quality and intentionally blurring clarity of outline. Ghosts of Johann Strauss, Frank Zappa and Miles Davis all seemed to materialise and dematerialise at various points, but without any sense of appropriation.

Providing an instantly engaging opening set was Yulugi, with Gumaroy Newman’s arresting voice and yidaki leading us deep into his ancestral culture, in dialogue with Keyna Wilkins’ piano and luminous flutes.

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