It is easy to take a strong position against NIMBYism from an ivory tower, but it becomes much harder once there are real impacts on you.
The Sacramento Bee’s Editorial Board recently took a decidedly NIMBY stance of their own by asking for special treatment on a proposed California law that would convert many independent contractors into employees.
The legislation, known as Assembly Bill 5, would require the Bee and other newspapers to hire their newspaper delivery workers as employees instead of independent contractors. This proposed law will eliminate the workplace flexibility that is so attractive to many independent contractors and will be massively disruptive to companies in many industries across the state.
Proponents of the legislation argue it would give the workers additional benefits and job protections, but the newspaper industry and others have countered that it would come with higher personnel costs that financially struggling businesses cannot afford.
There are many sectors made up of small and medium sized businesses that utilize contractors and face similar financial considerations as do newspapers, yet there is no call from the Editorial Board for them to receive an exemption.
It’s incredibly hypocritical for the Bee to ask for special treatment for the newspaper industry when it is often quick to deny it to others.
If only the Editorial Board would be so understanding about the need to exempt certain neighborhoods when it came to the placement of new homelessness shelters.
The Bee has not been shy about calling out local neighborhood opposition to new homeless housing centers. Editorials strongly supported the recent approval of the Meadowview shelter for homeless women and children, despite the objections from portions of the community and the City Councilmember representing the area.
The Editorial Board urged the Meadowview neighborhood to put aside their concerns about a homeless housing complex near a community center because homelessness is such an important issue and all parts of the community need to be part of the solution.
If everyone needs to play their part in fixing big problems, then newspapers have no right to oppose Assembly Bill 5.
While the Bee’s editorial agrees that the issue of when a worker is an employee needs to be addressed, they do not want any solution that would require them to pay their workers more.
Essentially, they are confirming there is a problem, but do not want anything that would hurt newspapers.
That’s not too different from an economically challenged neighborhood arguing that while homelessness is a big problem, unique circumstances mean their community is not the best place to host a new shelter. Yet, the Editorial Board has rejected this argument when it came to concerns about the Meadowview shelter and admired the “courage” of the City Council for overcoming the local opposition.
The Bee would certainly not be so supportive if the Legislature were to show the same form of “courage” by standing up for newspaper workers and rejecting the Bee’s NIMBY request to be exempt from the law.
A strong, free, independent press is key for any democracy, and newspapers even as they face financial turmoil still play an important role in helping the public decipher complex issues. However, for the Bee to have credibility on issues, they cannot ask for special treatment they would never condone for others.
Either the Editorial Board fully opposes legislation to make most independent contractors into employees, or it fully supports it. It cannot be a NIMBY and have it both ways by getting special treatment while others have to bear the burden.
After all, the Bee has been consistent in one thing: you cannot demand solutions to a problem while rejecting a fix in your own backyard.
Matt Rexroad is a political consultant and attorney that reads that Sacramento Bee every single day.