Great: pop the champagne for Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who won his exorbitantly expensive battle to avoid paying gig workers fairly at all costs.
The New York Times reports that California voters have passed Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart’s ballot measure Prop 22 overwhelming. Roughly 58.3% of Californians voted yes on Prop 22, while 41.7% voted no according to the Los Angeles Times, with 69.17% of precincts reporting at this hour. This means that rideshare companies and delivery apps officially don’t have to classify an estimated 500,000 California workers as employees, or grant them the benefits and workplace protections to which they should be entitled.
Thanks to the passage of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart’s ballot measure Prop 22, rideshare companies and delivery apps officially don’t have to classify an estimated 500,000 California workers as employees, or grant them the benefits and workplace protections to which they should be entitled. Together, through the historically well-funded $206 million Yes on Prop 22 campaign, the companies spent about as much money as Uber and Lyft should have paid the state of California in unemployment insurance over two years. Now they don’t have to for the foreseeable future.
Prop 22 now waves away benefits workers should have been getting under the California state law Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), which was passed last September. AB 5 represented a triumph for worker advocates, codifying into law a stricter test to determine who is an “independent contractor”—a status gig companies have long used to exempt themselves from responsibility for their workers’ well-being. (While AB 5 applies to many independent contractors, the measure was politicized as a battle to crack down on the gig industry.)
Courts had ruled and upheld that under AB 5 many current gig workers in California were already full employees, entitling them to a variety of workplace protections including: minimum wage and overtime pay; unemployment insurance; paid leave to handle sickness, childcare, or the death of an immediate family member; workers’ compensation for on-the-job injuries; and the ability to join a union.
Workers will now have none of that. Instead, Prop 22 disingenuously claims to offer 120% minimum wage, a sliding scale of health insurance coverage, and reimbursement for expenses. But these minimum provisions hinge on “engaged time,” the portion of the workday in which drivers are picking up and dropping off passengers. Researchers have estimated that this covers less than two-thirds of rideshare drivers’ working hours. As a result, one study from the UCLA Labor Center finds that California Uber and Lyft drivers, at least, will now only be guaranteed a $5.64 per hour minimum wage.
Running up to the election, the companies launched a take-no-prisoners assault of wall-to-wall messaging run by at least 19 consulting firms, including Republican operatives and opposition researchers from the tobacco and oil industries. The campaign itself demonstrated the overwhelming influence of the companies’ soft power, pushing their shitty agenda not only to prospective voters, but often to captive audiences of their own gig workers.
It’s a big setback. A federal rule could supercede it—which is more likely to happen if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win the election—but rolling Prop 22 back in California will be nearly impossible. Doing so requires an 87.5% majority vote in both houses of the California state legislature and the governor’s approval to amend it.
Fuck this law, and fuck these companies.