Joe Biden, MIA
By Harold Meyerson | Sep 03, 2019
As Prospect staff writer Alex Sammon has noted, the most important piece of legislation currently pending in any of the nation’s 50 state legislatures has seen something of a generational divide among Democrats. The bill, AB5, would conform California’s labor law to a ruling of the state’s Supreme Court that required employers to reclassify workers currently mislabeled as independent contractors into their correct classification as employees—thereby requiring those employers to adhere to the legal protections (like minimum wage and overtime pay) afforded to employees. Hundreds of thousands of misclassified California workers—like the truckers at the ports and the drivers for such companies as Uber and Lyft—would be reclassified under the terms of the bill, which has passed the California State Assembly and will shortly be voted on in the State Senate.
Not surprisingly, the bill is the subject of a titanic battle between Uber, Lyft and other app-based driving services on one side, and their drivers, backed by the state’s labor movement, on the other. But it also has split the state’s Democrats. Many Obama-era Democrats, who have been flocking to Silicon Valley sinecures or received the Valley’s campaign contributions throughout the past decade, have lined up on Uber’s side, including Tony West, the company’s general counsel and onetime number-three in Obama’s Justice Department. (Former Senator Barbara Boxer also penned an op-ed favoring Uber, which led one friend of mine to comment, “Who does she think she is? Dianne Feinstein?”) Responding, in part, to the labor-left militancy of today’s Democratic electorate, however, a host of Democratic presidential candidates have backed the bill, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, and even Tony West’s sister-in-law, Kamala Harris.
That’s every Democrat who polls in the top seven of the Democratic presidential field—with the single exception of the guy who polls first, Joe Biden. Joe’s modus operandi appears to include ducking every issue that might engender blowback from any wing of the party. For a guy who is campaigning as the workers’ friend, staying silent on this basic question of workers’ rights calls into question the very basis of his candidacy—and his suitability as the party’s standard bearer.