Cuomo hints at an AB5-like regulation for New York; effort in New Jersey derailed for now

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested Wednesday that his state may become the latest to jump on what might be called the AB5 bandwagon.

In his State of the State address, Cuomo spent a few moments talking about the “so-called gig economy.” The word “truck” was not mentioned. But to the trucking industry that has at least a temporary reprieve from California’s AB5 law, which is aimed at independent contractors — like truck drivers — the message was clear.

“A driver is not an independent contractor simply because she drives her own car on the job,” Cuomo said, according to a transcript of the address. “A newspaper carrier is not an independent contractor because they ride their own bicycle. A domestic worker is not an independent contractor because she brings her own broom and mop to the job.”

“It is exploitive, abusive, it’s a scam, it’s fraud,” Cuomo added. “It must stop and it has to stop here and now!” (The exclamation point was in the transcript.)

Meanwhile, a move to introduce AB5-like independent contractor legislation in New Jersey failed to get through the current session which is coming to an end.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney told NJ Advance Media that legislation regarding the classification of workers would be taken up in the next two-year legislative session. New Jersey’s legislative calendar actually has a legislative session end in early January rather than on or near December 31, as in most other states. The current session is ending in the coming days. The next session would start soon after that.

“Unlike what (critics) were saying, we weren’t rushing anything,” Sweeney told the news service.

Cuomo made no other reference to a gig economy law in his speech. But in a lengthy booklet distributed with the speech, the governor’s office said that “New York’s workplaces are operating under a legal infrastructure that is over 100 years old and failing. New York will make sure that the rules of the road keep up.” The proposal went on to say that the governor would “introduce legislation to make sure all of New York’s workers have necessary benefits and protections.”

“Many of the gig economy workers are excluded from the progress New York has enacted because the law has not caught up with changes in the economy,” according to the State of the State book. “Corporations avoid fair pay and benefits, increasing their profits at the expense of the employee and the taxpayer.”

Besides California, New Jersey had gone the furthest in moving toward new laws that would redefine the relationship between independent contractors and the companies that hire them.

In California, the AB5 legislation that now governs the relationship between some independent contractors and the people who hire them is in effect. However, a federal court recently handed down a temporary injunction that blocked implementation of AB5 in the trucking industry due to the possibility of such a step exceeding a state’s jurisdiction in the regulation of interstate trucking.