The daily business briefing: September 11, 2019

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Harold Maass
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1.

California Senate passes bill giving contractors employee status

California lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill requiring many companies to treat contract workers as employees. The landmark legislation could have broad implications for fixtures in the gig economy, including Uber, Lyft, and other companies that rely heavily on contractors. The bill passed 29-11 in the State Senate. It faces a final vote in the State Assembly that is viewed as a formality. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is expected to sign the bill. The legislation applies to app-based companies, which tried to negotiate an exemption but failed. If the bill becomes law as expected, it will take effect Jan. 1 and affect all workers controlled by a company, or whose contributions are part of a firm's regular operations. Labor groups are pushing similar measures in New York and other states. [The New York Times, USA Today]

2.

China exempts 16 U.S. products from new tariffs

China on Wednesday announced exemptions for 16 U.S. products from new tariffs in its trade war with the Trump administration. American industrial grease and a few other raw materials for farmers and factories will no longer face the new levies, but the tariffs will remain for soybeans and other major U.S. exports. Analysts said the move could be seen as a sign of good faith ahead fresh trade negotiations set for next month, or an effort to soften the impact of the trade dispute on China's economy. U.S. stock index futures, which have fluctuated according to trade news in recent weeks, were mixed early Wednesday, with those of the Dow Jones Industrial Average edging higher while those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were little changed. [The Associated Press, CNBC]

3.

Percentage of uninsured Americans rises for first time in decade

More Americans lacked health insurance in 2018, marking the first rise in the percentage of the uninsured in a decade, the Census Bureau said Tuesday. Democrats blamed the decline on Trump administration efforts to weaken the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, and to tighten requirements for qualifying for Medicaid. The Census Bureau also reported that household income rose last year, reaching $63,179. That marked an inflation-adjusted 0.9 percent increase from the $61,372 reported in 2017, suggesting relatively flat median income, although the poverty rate dropped to 11.8 percent from 12.3 percent, its fourth straight decline. [USA Today, The Associated Press]

4.

Apple announces lower streaming service prices, new iPhone

Apple during a Tuesday event officially announced the launch date of its new streaming service, Apple TV+. It will be available on Nov. 1, not long before Disney's new service Disney+, which launches on Nov. 12. Apple TV+ will also cost $4.99, making it cheaper than Disney+, which will cost $6.99. It'll also be cheaper than the most popular $12.99 Netflix plan, and the ad-supported $5.99 Hulu plan. Previous reporting suggested Apple's service would be $9.99. Apple also announced the iPhone 11, a new iteration of the Apple Watch, and a game subscription service in the App Store, and said those who purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV device will get a year of Apple TV+ for free. [The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline]

5.

Uber lays off 435 more employees

Uber announced Tuesday that it was laying off 435 employees in its product and engineering teams. "Our hope with these changes is to reset and improve how we work day to day — ruthlessly prioritizing, and always holding ourselves accountable to a high bar of performance and agility," an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. The ride-hailing service's second round of recent cuts, which came after the company laid off 400 marketing team employees, amounted to roughly 8 percent of its employees in the affected departments. Uber has 27,000 full-time employees worldwide. The layoffs did not touch the company's food delivery platform, Eats, which is one of Uber's best-performing businesses. [TechCrunch]