“Corruption.” “Backroom dealing.” “Pure spite.” “Naked favoritism.”
These are the words written by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to describe former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s bad behavior when crafting her anti-independent contractor law AB 5 (Assembly Bill 5), enacted in January 2020.
The court’s recent decision resurrected an older lawsuit from 2019 (Olson v. State of California) that had been dismissed outright by a lower court in February 2020. Appealed by Uber and Postmates, the case had fallen under the radar until March 17, 2023, when the Ninth Circuit issued its unanimous decision, stating:
“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.”
The case has now been sent back to the lower court for reconsideration. In its decision, the 9th Circuit cited Gonzalez no less than 14 times by name. The judges expressed dismay at the arbitrary exemptions bestowed to favored sectors by Gonzalez herself with the help of the bill’s sponsor, the California Labor Federation, which represents 1,200 unions in the state.
Exemplifying Sacramento’s incestuous relationship with Big Labor, Gonzalez has since left her District 80 Assembly seat last year to become head of the California Labor Federation.
According to the court, the exemptions, which pick winners and losers, explicitly exclude Uber et al. even though similarly situated app platforms like Wag! and TaskRabbit received exemptions for such workers as dog walkers and yard cleaners.
In trying to defend Gonzalez’s poorly drafted law during oral arguments on July 13, 2022, the state’s deputy attorney general withered under questioning from the three-judge panel. It was notable, the court wrote, that counsel for the state was “unable to articulate a conceivable rationale for AB 5 that explains the exemptions made by AB 5, as amended.”
Because of Gonzalez’s blatant “animus not based in reason” directed at the plaintiffs, the Ninth Circuit also concluded that AB 5 plausibly violates the equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment.
The court’s brutal indictment of AB 5 hinged on Gonzalez’s “shocking statements,” tweets, and disparaging remarks against Uber, et al. One such statement (cited in the plaintiff’s complaint) was when Gonzalez called Uber’s chief legal officer Tony West (aka Kamala Harris’s brother-in-law) “full of shit” on September 18, 2019 — the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 5 into law.
Meanwhile, those of us who have witnessed the ongoing dumpster fire of AB 5 since its inception know that Gonzalez’s animus extended to specific local businesses as well during her crafting of the disastrous AB 5 law, which has put hundreds of thousands of career professionals out of business — from tutors and transcriptionists to performing arts groups, indie filmmakers, and wedding planners.
Here in San Diego, Gonzalez trained her sights on local news outlets she viewed as adversaries.
There can be no doubt, in fact, that Gonzalez displayed specific, targeted animus toward The Coast News when she publicly and falsely accused the family-owned newspaper in 2020 of firing all its employees with the goal of converting them to independent contractors in violation of AB 5.
Chris Kydd, the associate publisher at The Coast News Group, told KUSI-TV at the time that Gonzalez’s statements were 100% false.
“On top of the carelessness of her claims, what she said was potentially damaging to our business as it brings the credibility of The Coast News Group and our brand into question,” Kydd said. “We are a media entity who has been respected in the community for over 30 years, and we remain one of the few independently owned news sources in San Diego.”
In a recent stunning turn of events, Gonzalez is currently under fire in a civil workplace complaint directed at her husband Nathan Fletcher. The disgraced San Diego County supervisor is being accused of workplace sexual harassment, sexual assault and retaliation against a Latina public relations specialist at the San Diego Metropolitan Transit Service (MTS), where he served as the agency’s board chairman.
Gonzalez is accused of attempting to silence her husband’s accuser.
What has now become a serious legal problem for MTS, Fletcher’s accuser was fired by the agency the same day Fletcher announced his campaign for the state senate. Fletcher has since ended his state senate run, resigned from the MTS board and supposedly checked himself into rehab, blaming PTSD and alcoholism for his poor choices.
He has also resigned from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, but apparently not until May 15 after the board votes for the county’s next chief administrative officer. (One candidate is Cindy Chavez, a local AFL-CIO leader from Santa Cruz; the other is Paul Worlie, chief of staff for Nathan Fletcher.)
As for Lorena Gonzalez, she could be in a world of hurt if the accusations in paragraph 59 of the civil complaint prove accurate. In the complaint, the accuser cites Lorena Gonzalez by name for intimidating her to drop the charges, claiming that both Gonzalez and Nathan Fletcher threatened to publically defame her and sue her for extortion if she didn’t back down.
In addition, the accuser stated that the Fletchers would make her “look terrible, and it’s going to follow her for the rest of her life.”
All of this allegedly came from California’s most powerful labor leader and self-proclaimed avenger of wrongs in the workplace, Lorena Gonzalez.
Should Lorena Gonzalez’s entire career as the state’s preeminent Big Labor boss implode, it would be a dramatic downfall for the Fletchers — arguably California’s most powerful “power couple” as of just a few short weeks ago.
The potential departure of Lorena Gonzalez from California politics would be welcome news to the millions of independent professionals and small- and medium-sized businesses hurt by her scorched-earth policymaking.
Indeed, champagne flutes will be clinking across the state in a parody of Gonzalez’s since-deleted Twitter post of herself in a hot tub, defiantly drinking champagne in a bikini just days after her husband’s entire political career became complete toast due to scandal in the workplace.
Should that day come when Gonzalez is gone for good, her putrid AB 5 law will unfortunately still be wreaking havoc on California’s business community and independent workforce in perpetuity.
Hopefully, one day, AB 5 will also be gone, torched in a trash bin as one of the most corrupt and destructive laws in California’s history.