Prop 22 is a Terrible Law That Completely Undermines Gig Workers’ Rights
Monday Oct 5th is the start of early voting in California, and the mail-out date for ballots, so its time to start educating yourself on the twelve state ballot initiatives. One huge thing to keep in mind is just how much corporate interests have hijacked the ballot initiative process in California. What was intended to be a way for the people of California to have direct democratic say in our state laws, has turned into a way for moneyed groups and corporations to undo the work of our courts and legislature.
Nothing exemplifies this problem more, than Prop 22. This proposition was written, pushed and funded to the tune of $110 million, by a coalition lead by Uber, Lyft and Doordash. Their goal is to get out of providing their drivers and delivery people with the pay and benefits they are legally entitled to. Its been a long series of court battles and legislation that got us here, and I’ll get into that more, but for those of you who want the TL:DR:
Voting NO on Prop 22 will force Uber, Lyft and Doordash to comply with existing law and classify their workers as employees, which will entitle them to worker protections such as: minimum wage, unemployment insurance, workers comp, employment discrimination protections, paid sick leave, disability insurance, paid family leave, overtime pay, and reimbursement for business expenses. Vote No on Prop 22 to ensure the people who are risking their lives in our pandemic times to bring you your takeout and drive you to and from your essential outings, have the protections they and our communities deserve.
These companies are literally refusing to provide even the basic protections that an hourly worker at Walmart, McDonalds or even a delivery person working for a local restaurant or shop receives. Not only that, they are spamming their customer mailing lists with misleading information to convince people that their drivers don’t want these protections.
Additionally, classifying drivers as employees provide protections to customers that don’t exist when drivers are independent contractors. If a driver refuses to pick up a person in a wheelchair, or cancels a ride when they see its a black person, currently the only recourse a rideshare company has is firing the driver. They throw up their hands and say, “well they are an independent contractor, we have no control over this”. Customers who have been discriminated against have to grapple with the reality that their complaints will probably cost someone just scrapping by their job. If drivers are employees, the companies can provide training upfront on what the law is regarding discrimination in providing services and what their responsibilities as drivers are to follow the law. Not to mention paid sick leave protects us all against further spread of Covid-19.
The companies are doing their best to convince people that their drivers like the “flexibility” of being an independent contractor, but they are leaving out the part that they can provide the exact same “flexibility” while making their drivers hourly employees. Anyone who has ever worked for a company with hourly workers could come up with a bonus scheme that achieves the exact same thing as the surge pricing incentives, and “cutting” drivers when demand slows. Additionally, they won’t be able to lure unsuspecting new drivers in with a bullshit number of what they can earn when drivers don’t realize they are paying for their own gas, cars, and not being paid for idle time when they don’t have fares. The amount they pay per hour will be transparent and clear to everyone involved, including customers.
So how did we get here? Here comes the wonky legal history…
The story of this goes all the way back to 2005, before Travis Kalanick had ever been in a town car and Uber was still 4 years away from being founded. A company called Dynamex Operations decided to reclassify all of its delivery drivers from employees to independent contractors. One of its drivers filed a class action lawsuit that the drivers had been misclassified and should be employees and it became known as Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court. This case wound its way through the legal system finally ending up in the California Supreme Court in 2018. Along its thirteen year legal journey, the gig economy had sprung up and rapidly taken over the rideshare and delivery markets in California creating a massive group of people toiling away as independent contractors for app based companies pulling in gobs of VC money and revenue from their customers. All while cannibalizing existing industries by undercutting them on price.
In 2018 the California Supreme Court handed down a decision in favor of the workers, determining they had been misclassified as independent contractors and that they were entitled to employee classification. This decision also impacted gig workers for companies including Uber, Lyft and Doordash. California public opinion strongly supported this decision and the California legislature quickly followed this decision in 2019 with a new law AB5, to codify the decision into California law.
While AB5 had some serious issues that ensnared small businesses and artists, updates were made starting this year, and it is currently the acting law of the state. The same coalition funding Prop 22 immediately filed suit in California to prevent AB 5 from being enforced on them and a judge granted a hold on enforcement until this past August. Uber and Lyft threatened to shut down in California rather than comply with the law and a judge extended the hold. Hearings in the case begin October 13th. But the gig companies were not content to depend solely on the court system to get their way. They banded together and collectively pledged $110 million to write a law to exempt themselves from AB 5, gather enough signatures to get it on the Nov 3 ballot, and bombard the state with advertisements, and their customer lists with emails, convincing voters to vote yes on it.
So here we are. If Prop 22 passes we will have created a two tired system, where moneyed app companies get to exempt themselves from labor laws, while small business owners have to comply with the laws our court system and legislature have upheld.
If you give a shit at all about workers rights, small businesses, the health and safety of your community, and stopping corporations from writing their own laws – Vote No on Proposition 22!
Read more about No on Prop 22 right here.