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California Senate passes bill to define more gig economy workers as employees

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The California State Senate voted on Tuesday to pass a bill that would make it much more difficult for companies like Uber and Lyft to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

The bill, known as AB5, has garnered national attention, largely owing to the size of California’s workforce. Several Democratic presidential candidates have supported the measure, including U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

It has also come under sharp criticism by trade groups and so-called “gig economy” firms that rely heavily on contractors.

“We are fully prepared to take this issue to the voters of California to preserve the freedom and access drivers and riders want and need,” Lyft said in a statement.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment after U.S. market hours.

Gig economy companies, whose business models are dependent the use of contractors, have been among the most vocal critics of AB5.

Last week, Uber and Lyft proposed a ballot referendum that could be presented to California voters next year and would exempt drivers for ride-hailing services from the scope of the bill.

Uber, Lyft and delivery firm DoorDash, which has also made freelance drivers the backbone of its business, earmarked $90 million for a planned November 2020 ballot initiative that would exempt them from the law.

San Francisco–based DoorDash, expressing its disappointment at the vote, said it was committed to a new law that would guarantee benefits and protections, including a minimum wage, for its delivery drivers.

AB5, which was sponsored by California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and is supported by California Governor Gavin Newsom, passed the state senate with 29 votes in favor and 11 votes against it.

“By approving AB5, the California legislature solidified our state’s position as the national leader on workplace rights, setting the standard for the rest of the country to follow,” the California Labor Federation said in a statement.

The bill goes back to the Assembly for a final vote, known as a “concurrence vote” and then it moves on to Gov. Newsom, according to a staffer for Gonzales.

California is the nation’s most populous state and it is a leader in establishing policies that are adopted by other states.

“People ought to be very concerned because what happens here does tend to get copied in other states,” said Joseph Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs for the Western States Trucking Association, citing California’s leadership in setting stricter vehicle pollution standards.

The bill would codify a 2018 California Supreme Court decision, Dynamex Operations West Inc v. Superior Court, that set out a new standard for determining whether workers are properly classified as independent contractors.

The court said workers are a company’s employees under state wage laws when the company exercises control over their work, or they are integral to its business.



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Few U.S. lawmakers hit ‘like’ button after Facebook CEO visits Capitol Hill

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrapped up three days of discussions with Washington movers and shakers on Friday, with few if any indications he had won new “friends” to help the top social media company deal with multiple probes by Congress, state attorneys general and federal regulators.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, won some praise for agreeing to lengthy talks behind closed doors with officials ranging from President Donald Trump to a long list of lawmakers.

Trump posted a photo with Zuckerberg on Twitter and called their Oval Office session on Thursday a “nice meeting.” Facebook called Zuckerberg’s discussion with Trump “a good, constructive meeting” but neither side disclosed specifics.

The company faces a barrage of criticism from members of both parties and the public over issues ranging from political bias to privacy lapses, election-related activity and its dominance in online advertising.

An advertising powerhouse, Facebook also faces antitrust investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and a number of state attorneys general, as well as numerous legislative proposals that seek to restrict how it operates. Facebook may also face an antitrust probe by the U.S. Justice Department.

Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who arranged a dinner for Zuckerberg with other senators Wednesday night, told Fox Business Network, “Facebook leadership realizes that failure to have federal legislation (on internet issues) is actually going to hurt them and the whole platform industry in the long run.”

After the dinner, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said he had brought up Facebook’s “repeated failures” in election security and consumer privacy. “We had (a) serious, substantive conversation even when we may have differed,” he said in a statement.

Another critic was Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican who has accused Facebook of suppressing conservative speech. After meeting with the Facebook founder Thursday, Hawley said discussions had been “frank,” often a euphemism for contentious.

Hawley urged Zuckerberg to sell Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp units, which would limit how much information it could compile about an individual.

“Safe to say he was not receptive to those suggestions,” Hawley said dryly.

Zuckerberg was in no mood to talk to reporters between meetings, refusing over and over again to offer even the barest assessment of the discussions.

Also on Friday, Facebook said it had suspended tens of thousands of apps on the social networking platform, its first major update on an ongoing app developer audit it began in March 2018 to prevent a repeat of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Rep. David Cicilline, chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, said Friday that Zuckerberg pledged cooperation with the panel’s probe into online markets.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee opened an investigation into competition in digital markets in June, one of a series of investigations facing big tech companies like Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

Last week, the panel demanded emails, detailed financial information and other company records from the four companies’ top executives. They have until Oct. 14 to produce the documents.

While lawmakers like Hawley and Blumenthal seemed unsatisfied with Zuckerberg’s responses, Senator Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, took a milder tack.

“I encouraged him to come to the table, help us out — and this is not an adversarial role from my perspective,” Collins said, noting they did not discuss whether Facebook will comply with the document requests. “I think with their involvement you are going to see a lot more participation.”

Writing by Diane Bartz; Additional reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio



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Alyssa Thomas Is One of a Kind of a Big Deal in the W.N.B.A.

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. — In theory, it should be possible to slow down or even stop Alyssa Thomas, the hybrid 6-foot-2 forward for the Connecticut Sun.

Plagued by significant injuries to both her shoulders, Thomas is unable to raise her arms above her head right now. Yet the often-overlooked Thomas is the player no one on the star-studded Los Angeles Sparks frontcourt can stop as the semifinal series shifts to Game 3 on Sunday — and the player who has posted a pair of double-doubles over the past week to lead the Sun to within one win of the W.N.B.A. finals.

Thomas draws comparisons to many of the best in the N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. alike, yet she possesses a game entirely her own.

“I’ve had to change my game,” Thomas said, sitting at her locker after posting 12 points and 13 rebounds in Thursday night’s Game 2 win. “At Maryland, I was all about mid-range jumpers, doing all of that. And I know how people are going to play me. But I do have a full game, and I do attack really hard. So despite how people are playing me, I still can find my way to the rim.”

People struggle for easy analogues to Thomas. She finds open teammates, an additional playmaker on a starting five with a more traditional point guard in Jasmine Thomas and a combo guard, Courtney Williams, who reached a career-best assist percentage this year.

Miller, after Game 1, compared her to Candace Parker, another forward capable of running her team’s offense. But Parker’s array of shots, her length and her rim protection are of a fundamentally different shape than Thomas’s overall contributions.

Thomas’s college coach, Brenda Frese, compared her to LeBron James, with his ability to physically overwhelm opponents. Frese knew she had found someone special when she first saw Thomas play in high school, and skipped a U.S.A. Basketball event to go see Thomas instead at the Battle of Baltimore, a local tournament.

Image
CreditEthan Miller/Getty Images

“I had chills,” Frese said. “I instantly knew, just watching her in the layup line warming up. I couldn’t wait for the game to start. … What separates Alyssa is her speed, power and competitiveness. You cannot stop her in the open court in transition.”

Thomas’s success is also a fortuitous meeting of player skill and a larger basketball moment. She played well as a rookie for the Sun in 2014 under then-coach Anne Donovan, but Donovan plugged her into a more traditional power forward role. Only after Miller took the helm in 2016 did an offense tailored to Thomas’s facilitating skill set begin to take shape.

There’s just one outcome to expect — success — when Thomas collects the ball, as she often does, off the defensive glass, and smoothly rumbles up the court as a facilitator. But good things can also happen out of an array of outlet passes, most remarkably, the 70-foot bounce pass she has used since her high school days. No one taught her to throw those. No coach would, Frese said.

“She definitely had that mastered before coming to Maryland,” Frese said. “When I see a player that is that powerful you definitely want them to have the green light to play to their strengths. I am fortunate that I have been able to coach only a few players that do possess those talents, but it’s not something I would teach as it takes a special gift to be able to do so.”

Those gifts came in part from an upbringing by two collegiate basketball-playing parents, Tina Klotzbeecher-Thomas and Bobby Thomas, both of whom played at Division II Millersville. But Thomas said she was undersized for much of her childhood, and so her parents pushed her to acquire guard skills, just in case the expected growth spurt for the progeny of a 6-foot-4 father and 5-foot-10 mother never came to pass.

Fortunately for Maryland, and now the Sun, she grew. And the net result is a rebounder who managed to grab 13 boards on a Thursday night the Sparks totaled just 24, and 15 fast break points for a team that operates in transition more, per Synergy, than any W.N.B.A. team other than the Las Vegas Aces.

Her bravado may not be as pronounced as her teammate Williams’s, her skills as easily recognized as the 6-foot-6 center Jones. But the inevitability of Thomas’s success has never been clearer.

“I don’t care who’s in front of me, how tall you are, I will find a way,” Thomas said. “And if you block my shot, I’m coming right back at you.”



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Get advice on the latest growth tactics from Demand Curve at Disrupt SF – TechCrunch

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We’re going to try something new at Disrupt this year, based on the great response we’ve been getting to our startup how-to coverage. We’re going to put service provider experts on our Q&A stage, where you can talk to them directly in-person about key topics like growth, fundraising and recruiting.

To help kick off this experiment, we’ve asked growth marketing expert Asher King Abramson to lead a session where he’ll tear down your landing pages and Facebook/Instagram ads in front of a live audience. He’ll deconstruct how effective they are at (1) conveying what you do (2) and doing so enticingly — so that people click.

If you’re attending Disrupt and want to participate, you can submit your assets to ec_editors@techcrunch.com for him to consider.

Get your Disrupt tickets here (you’ll also get a very large discount on an Extra Crunch subscription).

If you’re not familiar, Abramson is the cofounder of Bell Curve, a growth marketing agency widely used by Y Combinator companies and others around Silicon Valley and the world, the cofounder of Demand Curve (YC s19), and a frequent industry speaker on growth (you can see some of his webinars here). We recently named Bell Curve to Verified Experts, our growing list of service providers who startups love to work with, based on founder recommendations. You may also be familiar with his cofounder, Julian Shapiro, a columnist here at TechCrunch who has covered topics for us including trends in paid channel ad prices, how well different sectors monetize and now a regular column featuring tips from across top growth marketers.

This focus on growth is part of our larger orientation towards building great companies via coverage in our new Extra Crunch subscription product.



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