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SB Nation Drops ‘Most’ of Its California Freelancers Due to New State Labor Law

“That’s probably the most heart-breaking thing of all of it: It really feels like a loss of community,” one impacted freelancer told TheWrap

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.”

The sports news site’s announcement said, “In 2020, we will move California’s team blogs from our established system with hundreds of contractors to a new one run by a team of new SB Nation employees. In the early weeks and months of 2020, we will end our contracts with most contractors at California brands. This shift is part of a business and staffing strategy that we have been exploring over the past two years, but one that is also necessary in light of California’s new independent contractor law, which goes into effect January 1, 2020.”

It was framed as “a bittersweet note of thanks to our California independent contractors” and highlighted the work done by California-based contractors in 2019: “They ran 25 different communities, with all of the sites’ managers pulling together their own unique recipe for smart coverage. Contractors ran social media through the nerve-racking ups and downs of gametime and moderated our sprawling communities. Together, over 200 people on California sites wrote thousands of blog posts in 2019 – pieces so diverse in their conception that it’s impossible to describe them en masse except to say, they were written for a community of fellow fans.”

The site is encouraging ousted freelancers to apply to its new full-time or part-time employee positions here. Notably, Vox Media, SB Nation’s parent company, laid off dozens of employees in a major staff shakeup in 2018 with Curbed, Racked and SB Nation feeling the brunt of the cuts.

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.
“The whole beauty of these team blogs is that they’re different from the national media’s reporting. You get different perspectives and views that some people, who need to protect their sources or keep their access, just aren’t able to share,” he said. “That’s probably the most heart-breaking thing of all of it: It really feels like a loss of community. People won’t be able to read their favorite sites for sports news anymore. All of those writers who worked hard to make it a community… it’s really unfortunate.”