Lorena Gonzalez’s Bill AB5 Cuts Salaries for Music Teachers at San Diego Music and Art Company

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Photography by Anastasya Photography

Mathew Rakers, who runs the San Diego Music and Art Company, made former employees of independent contractors after AB5. But, “Everyone has suffered a pay cut. ”

When California enacted Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) in early 2020, the music industry braced for a major upheaval.

The law created a new standard (the ABC test) that employers would have to meet when hiring workers as independent contractors. If they did not meet those standards and misclassify their employees, they would be responsible for the mistake.

The bill was primarily touted as a way to get gig economy companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to offer better wages and protections to their workers. He cast a much wider net, however, as the law applies to all independent contractors.

Many professions with lobbying power benefited from exemptions from the outset. These included doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, commercial fishermen and architects. Not on this list: musicians.

Mathew Rakers falls into this category. He runs a Mira Mesa-based business called The San Diego Music And Art Company that provides “a comprehensive, high-quality music and artistic education for students of all ages while supporting a growing network of qualified professional musicians, artists, photographers and writers. “. Originally, all of the instructors were hired as independent contractors, but due to uncertainty over how the future application of AB5 would affect its business model, Rakers took a precautionary measure. important to ensure that his operation did not violate the new law.

“I had to hire everyone as employees, Rakers explained. “Everyone has suffered a pay cut. It is quite common for people to hire teachers as employees with pay cuts or just moonlight now or maybe illegally and face fines.

“It’s really scary because none of these people are rich, he added. “It’s a whole class of the economy that looks the best like the lower middle class.”

On April 17, it was announced that new exemptions for musicians would be enacted when the state assembly resumed in May. A press release from District 80 MP Lorena Gonzalez states that “the changes will preserve the ability for the following industry professionals to collaborate and contract with each other to produce sound recordings and musical compositions without enforcing the ABC test to determine an employer “. These professionals included (among others) musicians, singers, producers and engineers.

The changes will also clarify that unless a musical group is “the main featured number in a concert hall with more than 1,500 participants” or a “musical group performing in a large festival with more than 18,000 participants. per day “, they will be exempt. of the law too.

The press release also listed specific music-related work that would continue to benefit from employment protection under AB5. This included musicians performing in symphony orchestras, musical productions and a “musical group performing regularly in a theme park”.

Music teachers were not on any of these lists. These musicians and many more will continue to work, albeit with increased uncertainty as they learn to navigate the world of AB5 compliance, exemptions and potential penalties.

“I’ve been following him very closely now for about six months,” Rakers explained. “I would venture to say that some of my friends who are business owners have no idea how to deal with it and take the ‘I’m going to bury my head in the sand’ method to deal with this problem because that they don’t. want to think about it. These are the people that worry me the most.


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