Please contact your lawmaker before Friday night to ensure that your carrier can continue to bring you the news. (Courtesy photo)

Contact your lawmaker: Do your part to help newspapers

As a concerned reader, here is what you should know before you ask your legislator and the governor to support AB 170

The delivery of your newspaper is still a go this week, but please contact your lawmaker before Friday night to ensure that your carrier can continue to bring you the news.

A Senate amendment to Assembly Bill 170 would allow a one-year delay in labor rules that would force newspapers to treat contracted delivery workers as employees.

Over the legislative session, AB 5 spurred a healthy debate on the modern workforce and how the technology-driven “gig economy” should characterize workers. California newspapers did a good job of covering the legislative debate, but newspapers as businesses also seriously listened to all the voices from workers, industries and policy makers. If AB 170 is approved by the legislature and signed into law, the news industry will have breathing space to find a way to, within its means, create systems that further the values expressed by proponents of AB 5.

As reported by The Sacramento Bee, AB 170 is eligible for a vote this Friday because its last-minute amendments must be in print and available to the public at least three days before lawmakers can pass it. In the meantime, the Senate voted 29 to 11 to pass AB 5 Tuesday evening, sending it back to the Assembly, which sent it to the governor on Wednesday.

As a concerned reader and a newspaper customer, here is what you should know before you ask your legislator and the Governor to support AB 170:

Making carriers employees right now, without time for careful research and consideration, would have grave consequences to your local newspaper’s business model and imperil newspapers that are already under financial stress. And for you, the delivery cost would soar, if delivery could even continue in your area.

Your information source would be curtailed because delivery routes would be reduced or eliminated, especially in rural areas.

As newspaper circulation is reduced, advertising revenue is reduced. Reduction of both circulation and ad revenue would force newspapers to employ fewer journalists.

Fewer journalists means fewer stories being told, less investigation of corruption, and ultimately, an inability for citizens to gain the information necessary for self-governance. All of this at a time when access to authoritative, reliable information is more important than ever.

Your local newspaper’s ability to inform you and enrich your community is at stake. Please do your part to ensure that it continues in that vital role a year from now.

Contact the governor here: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/

Not sure who represents you? Go to findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov to find out.

This opinion piece was written by Thomas W. Newton and James W. Ewert. Newton is the executive director of the California News Publishers Association. Ewert is its general counsel and advocate.

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