Vox Media Fires Hundreds of Freelancers Due to Law Trumpeted by Vox

Vox wrote that the bill's passage was a "victory for workers everywhere."

December 17, 2019

Vox Media cut ties with hundreds of freelance employees as a result of a law that was previously praised by Vox.

A September Vox headline declared that California's passage of a bill limiting employers' ability to classify workers as independent contractors was a "victory for workers everywhere." On Monday, Vox Media sports website SBNation announced it would have to let go hundreds of contributors living in California before the law takes effect in 2020.

"That new law makes it impossible for us to continue with our current California team site structure because it restricts contractors from producing more than 35 written content 'submissions' per year," SBNation director of team brands John Ness said.

Vox wrote in September that the bill's passage represented "a historic moment for the US labor movement." The left-leaning outlet uncritically quoted labor activists who pushed for the bill and predicted that "hundreds of thousands of workers—possibly millions—will see an immediate impact on their working conditions after the switch."

Vox Media's own workers did see an immediate impact, but not quite the one their sister site predicted. CNBC reports that the more than two hundred contributors let go by SBNation would be replaced by "about 20" employees and that Vox Media sites Curbed and Eater would also be affected. In a private memo, Ness told the California freelance journalists that they can continue to contribute, but without pay.

SBNation basketball writer Rebecca Lawson wrote about the harm caused by the new law in a separate blog post, headlined "California’s terrible AB5 came for me today, and I’m devastated."

"This is a passion project for me. Personally, while the extra income helps my family, it doesn’t break us to lose it," she wrote. "But I have literally HUNDREDS of amazing colleagues all across our network who DO rely on this money to help, and who are going to have to replace that income somewhere else, somehow. That sucks. So much."