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Gig economy drivers in California sue to overturn Prop 22

They say the measure is unconstitutional.
Igor Bonifacic, @igorbonifacic
January 12, 2021
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An Uber logo is shown on a rideshare vehicle during a statewide day of action to demand that ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft follow California law and grant drivers "basic employee rights'', in Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 20, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Mike Blake / reuters

Despite passing with a wide 58 to 42 percent margin in November, California’s Proposition 22, which sought to keep gig-economy workers in the state classified as independent contractors, hasn’t become any less controversial. In a filing with the state’s supreme court spotted by TechCrunch, a group made up of the Service Employees International Union, SEIU California State Council, as well as three drivers and one passenger, challenged the legality of the measure. They allege it violated a provision in California’s constitution that states ballot initiatives can only address a single issue. 

“Prop. 22 unconstitutionally limits the power of elected officials to govern, illegally stripping workers of their basic right to organize for improvements to their pay and working conditions and illegally excluding them from the state’s workers’ compensation program,” the group said in a statement. They want to overturn the measure. We’ve reached out to Uber and Lyft for comment, and we’ll update this article when we hear back from the companies.

California classified gig economy workers as full employees when it passed Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) in September 2019. The state determined that the drivers Uber and Lyft employed qualified under California law for the same protections offered to employees. Last August, the Superior Court of San Francisco found that Uber and Lyft had violated the law by continuing to classify their workers as contractors. 

In passing Prop 22, voters in California gave Uber and Lyft drivers, as well as their Instacart and DoorDash counterparts, access to healthcare subsidies and insurance policy plans. At the same time, they permanently classified those workers as contractors and denied them the protections they would have gotten as full-time employees of those companies. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart spent more than $200 million on building support for Prop 22, and it worked. In exit early polls, 40 percent of people who shared they voted yes on the measure said they did so because they thought they were helping gig economy workers secure a livable wage. Outside of the California Supreme Court overturning the measure, it’s unlikely that lawmakers will be able to do anything about the measure since one of its main provisions states that a seven-eighths legislative majority is needed to amend it.

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