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A message from the SBN MLB Communities regarding California’s AB 5

New gig economy laws may spell big changes for SB Nation communities

Editor’s note: A version of the following letter is being published across multiple SB Nation MLB sites today. Many of the communities posting this letter are those who have been directly affected by the changes under California Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), or those based in states that may soon follow California’s lead. Washington State doesn’t currently have an bill exactly identical to AB 5 in the legislature; however, there has been a bill (HB 2109) introduced in the Washington State Legislature to create portable benefits for gig economy workers that was first introduced in 2017 and has been stalled, but could see renewed momentum with the passing of AB 5.

We’re sharing this letter here on the site primarily to inform the LL community about the changes that will go into effect in 2020 regarding the California-based sites and contributors; changes that might have gone unnoticed by many of our readers but will impact us here at LL. The new law and Vox’s subsequent decision to centralize the roles at all California team sites into full-time positions forces our California-based writer Nick Stillman to move on from LL, at least in the role of regular contributor, so we wanted to create a space for you to drop some appreciation for Nick in the comments. I will miss Nick’s writing for the site, especially his lively Midshipmen’s Logs, but even more, I will miss his kindness and good humor and constant positive presence. The good news is Nick plans to focus even more on his fiction in the future, so you’ll still be able to read his writing in any literary magazine that’s smart enough to publish him. If you’re a fan of Nick’s work, follow him on Twitter (@nick_at_day) and make sure to message him every day or so and ask how the book is going. Writers love that!

Speaking of the comments, a reminder that we’re sharing this information to make you aware of changes that have come and could be coming across the network, with the goal of communicating everything we know as clearly as possible so you as readers aren’t blindsided by large-scale changes; something we unfortunately saw was the case at some of our fellow blogs at Halos Heaven and Athletics Nation. This is not an open invitation to argue politics or debate the merits of AB 5 or other similar laws. It is simply to make you aware of changes that will affect our site, and could affect the site in the future. If you have further questions, drop them in the comments or e-mail and I will strive to answer them to the best of my knowledge. Please note as well that this letter was composed by a group of SB Nation editors, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of everyone on staff.


Last week we learned that our peers at the California-based SB Nation communities would face major changes under California Assembly Bill 5. You can read the full text of the bill here, but essentially, AB 5 attempts to address the rise of the gig economy and the lack of labor protections afforded to those workers by limiting the use of classifying workers as “independent contractors” rather than full-fledged employees. This law affects all California-based SB Nation sites, as well as all California-based writers across the network.

SB Nation sites are important because they represent the voices of passionate fans. What has evolved into the SB Nation collection of communities started more than 15 years ago, fittingly with one California-based site. Today, there exists a platform for every Major League Baseball team’s fanbase, led by a passionate staff of writers and editors who are deeply embedded within their fanbases. They write articles that encompass every aspect of being a fan of that team: game recaps, latest news, trade rumors, team history, minor-league reports, draft coverage, and more, all with comment sections moderated by the editorial team that gives every fan an opportunity to contribute to the discussion. The significance of these spaces for fans cannot be understated.

That’s why, collectively, we find the recent announcement of changes for our colleagues in California disquieting.

On Monday, December 16, most of us learned through Twitter or a post on the main SB Nation site that a significant number of our friends and colleagues were losing their jobs. Some have landed on their feet in another capacity within SB Nation, and we are proud of their continued success.

Unfortunately, for many, this isn’t possible. The hundreds of contractors this law impacts have been given three choices: apply for a small number of full-time positions, write for free, or quit writing for SB Nation altogether.

The ramifications of this decision extend beyond the California-based sites, too.

Many sites across the network have contributors and editorial staff based in California. These writers face the same set of choices outlined above. While SB Nation has agreed not to revoke access to Vox’s publishing platform for them, creating instead the new role of “Community Insider,” Community Insider positions are unpaid and on a volunteer basis, limiting Community Insiders to those who are willing or able to write for free, a decision that negatively impacts the diversity of our communities.

Therefore, we call on SB Nation to investigate a means to keep these individuals in the fold. Some of these authors provide content at a rate of more than one post per day, in addition to social media, editing, and other duties. They represent the pillars of our communities and deserve an opportunity to be considered for part-time employment or another equitable solution.

Even those sites with no connection to the state of California may be impacted by similar laws in the future. New York had a similar bill introduced at the end of the state legislative session this past June; New Jersey already has a similar law in the works, and other states are likely to follow. If the majority of states pass similar “gig economy” laws, the shape of SB Nation communities will change drastically.

We also ask, as we have since AB 5 passed, for communication.

We, as the leaders of our individual communities, call for timely transparency from Vox and SB Nation. Let us know what the plan is, and how it affects us, as soon as possible. These communications should be handled through internal means. As each community is different, allowing an open comment period to address any concerns or challenges would also be beneficial for all parties involved.

Everyone knew change was coming. The law that prompted this was common knowledge, and more than once we asked about the plan. Something as simple as letting us know there was a plan would have sufficed, yet we found out via social media, and in a manner that left most of us wondering about our own futures. Going forward, we ask that future communications are handled differently.

After years of hard work, the result of which has been our sites becoming the online homes for many fans, we believe that our California communities and contributors deserved better.

The law allows the option for them all to become employees. We recognize that business realities likely do not. For those in the newly created full-time roles, we congratulate you. For the hundreds of others who cannot or will not find themselves in that position, we offer our support and solidarity. For all of us, we hope that the next round of changes are handled in a more thoughtful fashion.