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Reblogged:Gig Work Ban Update

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Image by Max Chen, via Pexels, license.
Back in 2020, California's voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 22 in response to the infamous AB-5 gig work ban that had been passed and signed into law by their legislature and governor not long before.

Predictably, labor unions and other interests have challenged the measure in courts, with a state judge weighing in in August 2021.

That ruling allowed the measure to remain in force.

Most recently, a federal court has also ruled in favor of the proposition, holding that it is largely constitutional.

Absent a successful appeal by the labor unions and their allies, companies like Uber and Lyft will thus not be forced to hire their contractors as employees -- an important legal distinction, given the burdensome obligations that would mean under current American and Californian labor laws.

This is good news only in the short-term: The unions are considering an appeal, and the Biden Administration wants to federalize the very law that even Californians found intolerable.

More concerning, there is no mention within the piece -- or in any other news story I can recall -- of the right to contract, of an individual to trade with others on whatever terms that individual and another party might deem mutually beneficial.

The novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand once defined right succinctly as follows:
The concept of a "right" pertains only to action -- specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men. [bold added]
It is certainly no surprise that the pro-union side -- whose motivation is clearly to dictate the terms under which men can trade labor for compensation -- would appear to be confused at best about the concept of rights.

But the comments by the winning side, while expressing relief that the "independence" of the workers has been preserved, could have been more forceful had they been made using the language of rights and backed by a clear understanding of the concept.

Instead, we have the article speaking of Proposition 22 as having "allowed freelance workers to be classified as independent contractors," as if men don't have the right to choose their own employment status or set their own bargaining terms. And most of the rest of the piece is a squabbling about the alleged "benefits" offered by the terms of driver contracts vis-a-vis what we so often hear referred to as union "protections."

The legal counsel for Uber speaks of the ruling "preserving independence" for drivers, but this is a "win" is a very narrow, strictly legal, and very delimited sense of the term.

Appallingly, the only mention of the term "rights" in this piece refers to such alleged "rights" as sick leave. (Calling sick leave a "right" is appropriate only if both parties to a labor contract agreed that sick leave would be part of the worker's compensation and he had satisfied whatever terms would entitle him to take it.)

We would do well to consider what Ayn Rand had to say about such inappropriate language:
It was the concept of individual rights that had given birth to a free society. It was with the destruction of individual rights that the destruction of freedom had to begin.

A collectivist tyranny dare not enslave a country by an outright confiscation of its values, material or moral. It has to be done by a process of internal corruption. Just as in the material realm the plundering of a country's wealth is accomplished by inflating the currency -- so today one may witness the process of inflation being applied to the realm of rights.

The process entails such a growth of newly promulgated "rights" that people do not notice the fact that the meaning of the concept is being reversed. Just as bad money drives out good money, so these "printing-press rights" negate authentic rights.

... The "gimmick" was the switch of the concept of rights from the political to the economic realm.

The Democratic Party platform of 1960 summarizes the switch boldly and explicitly. It declares that a Democratic Administration "will reaffirm the economic bill of rights which Franklin Roosevelt wrote into our national conscience sixteen years ago."

Bear clearly in mind the meaning of the concept of "rights" when you read the list which that platform offers:

"1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

"2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

"3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

"4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home and abroad.

"5. The right of every family to a decent home.

"6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

"7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accidents and unemployment.

"8. The right to a good education."

A single question added to each of the above eight clauses would make the issue clear: At whose expense?

Jobs, food, clothing, recreation (!), homes, medical care, education, etc., do not grow in nature. These are man-made values -- goods and services produced by men. Who is to provide them?

If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.

Any alleged "right" of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.

No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as "the right to enslave." [bold added, italics in original] ("Man's Rights," pp. 112-113, in The Virtue of Selfishness, by Ayn Rand)
This is a holding action at best, and those of us who understand the basis of that "independence" for contract work -- that very much remains under threat -- must work to reestablish a proper understanding of rights within the broader culture.

-- CAV

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