Freelance Journalists Sue California Over Law That Has Already Caused Job Loss

Vox Media’s SB Nation announced it was cutting ties with California freelancers Monday

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Announces Results Of His Office's Investigation Into Stephon Clark Killing
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One day after SB Nation announced it was cutting ties with California freelancers on before a new law goes into effect, freelance journalists sued the state.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors, Inc. filed a lawsuit on Tuesday with the National Press Photographers Association in a Los Angeles federal court in an effort to stop Assembly Bill 5 from impacting the livelihoods of independent journalists.

It “seeks to vindicate the constitutional rights to free speech, the press, and equal protection for the members of” the plaintiffs, according to documents reviewed by TheWrap. A representative for the defendant did not immediately return a request for comment.

The suit says, “As a result of a recently enacted California law (AB 5, codified at Cal. Labor Code § 2750.3, et seq.), the constitutional rights of ASJA’s and NPPA’s members are impaired, threatening the livelihood of those who work as freelancers.”

“ASJA and NPPA seek prospective relief for their members in the form of a declaration that the challenged provisions of AB 5 are invalid, unenforceable, and void; a permanent and preliminary injunction against any further enforcement of the challenged provisions; plus costs and reasonable attorney fees,” it continues.

SB Nation is dropping “most” of its California freelancers, the site announced Monday, citing California’s new independent contractor law. The law, according to SB Nation, makes it “impossible” for the site to continue with its current California team site structure “because it restricts contractors from producing more than 35 written content ‘submissions’ per year.”

One SB Nation freelancer who wrote up to 100 posts a month and didn’t make more than $1,500 per month told TheWrap it was one of his main sources of income, though he noted he’s an outlier as he writes for a bigger team’s site; others at smaller sites make between $100-$300 per month. Monday’s slashing will “absolutely” impact him, both from a financial standpoint and likely cutting him off from the fans he’s grown close to.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.