The ballot measure, known as Proposition 22, would establish drivers as an independent class of workers with access to limited job benefits, along with wage and worker protections they’ve so far lacked under the gig economy model. Labor groups and many of driver advocates say the companies’ efforts, however, do not go far enough to protect workers and are merely an attempt, cloaked in friendly marketing materials, to quash a new law that would guarantee drivers access to the minimum wage, employer-provided health care and bargaining rights.
Drawing on a more than $186 million campaign war chest that Uber, Lyft, food delivery app DoorDash and other tech companies have raised, they are seeking to convince California voters that the ballot initiative reflects the will of drivers. They’ve cited limited survey data saying the vast majority of drivers want to remain contractors.
But critics see the measure as a last-ditch effort to strong-arm a tough law.
The gig companies are following a long history in California of powerful groups “manipulating the way the public understands propositions,” said Veena Dubal, an associate professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, who focuses on the gig economy and is an advocate for classifying drivers as employees in California. “They are working to trick the public … into voting in favor of this. And they’re getting traction.”
The heated battle could well result in major implications for gig workers not just in California, but across the country.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is the current status of drivers?
In most of the country, drivers are independent contractors who are able to work for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and others on demand. That comes with pros such as flexibility. But it also means there are no guaranteed hours or health care.
The companies have thrived on their ability to rapidly scale up their services by contracting as many workers as possible for maximum convenience, connecting an Uber passenger with a driver around the corner, for example. But they also avoid major expenses associated with an established employee base.
In California, lawmakers and a major court ruling have now classified drivers as employees. (The ruling has been appealed and a stay has been granted in the meantime, allowing Uber and Lyft to keep operating as usual.)
The gig companies have argued that the new state law known as AB5 mandating them to convert drivers to employees would harm their business models and limit access to their services. And in Uber’s case, it has argued the law should not apply at all because as a technology firm it merely connects those in search of work with opportunities.
Their combined effort to oppose driver employment is the most expensive such proposition in history, the Los Angeles Times has said.
What is Prop 22?
California Proposition 22, the App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies Initiative, is a measure that would classify drivers as independent contractors under California state law.
It would provide workers