In 2019 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill No. 5 (AB-5) Worker Status: Employees and Independent Contractors. Targeting gig-economy ride-sharing platforms AB-5 requires employers to determine if a worker is in fact an employee and not misclassified as an independent contractor.

What was not predicted was the result AB-5 would have on the arts sector.

Historically, small non-profit arts organizations (SNPAOs) pay artists as contractors compensated less than hourly minimum wage. To bolster business operations and capacity to raise funds some SNPAOs become fiscally sponsored arts projects of arts fiscal sponsors. Prior to AB-5, arts projects under fiscal sponsorship were primarily run by project directors and artists working as independent contractors. However, to comply with AB-5 some arts fiscal sponsors have converted independent contractors to employees.

AB-5 and Arts Ecosystems

As an arts management practitioner concerned with the economics of arts businesses and employment of artists I decided to focus my Doctoral Dissertation research on AB-5’s impact on symbiotic relationships within an arts ecosystems. Because I have worked in the San Francisco Bay Area with a variety of arts fiscal sponsors and fiscally sponsored arts projects in the roles of consultant, coach, instructor, and employee, I determined that a case study would yield an impactful story. 


Exploration of California worker status law compliance on arts fiscal sponsors and fiscally sponsored arts projects: A case study.pdf

In 2023 I conducted a four-phase sequential qualitative case study of an anonymous San Francisco arts fiscal sponsor and the fiscally sponsored arts projects to examine the result of AB-5 compliance. Research was completed in October 2023.

Theoretic Frameworks

Symbiotic Relationship Theory is the framework for data collection and analysis amongst five Samples. Both Ecosystem Theory and Co-Evolution Theory provide context for Symbiotic Relationship Theory.

Resulting Data Visualizations

Two data visualizations, displayed below, illustrate the results of AB-5 compliance.

    1. AB-5 Compliance Cause and Effects Chain diagrams the complexities of why AB-5 compliance creates a symbiotic relationship.
    2. Key Themes Mind Map of In Vivo coded data illustrates how the complexities of AB-5 compliance result in a symbiotic relationship through identification of four Key Themes: comply, confuse, change, cost.
Data Visualization 2: Key Themes Mind Map

Interested in discussing AB-5? 

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