In a few short weeks, Californians will be asked to vote on what is now the most expensive ballot proposition in U.S. history to decide the fate of gig workers for years to come.
Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig economy corporations have poured more than $185 million into the passage of Proposition 22, the largest sum for a ballot initiative campaign in California, and the U.S., even when accounting for inflation.
Rather than directing the millions of dollars toward providing drivers with a living wage, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation or pandemic assistance, they’ve instead decided to try and create a new employment classification for their drivers and continue their exploitative business model.
For several months now, they’ve been flooding the airwaves and social media platforms with deceptive messages showing drivers’ emotional pleas to keep making their own schedule while being fearful of losing their source of income should Prop 22 be defeated.
However, there are no provisions in the current law that would compel employers to force their drivers into a rigid schedule.
That hasn’t stopped the companies from using scare tactics and threatening to pull out of California altogether – an unlikely move that would prevent them from doing business in one of their most lucrative markets. They’ve even gone as far as sending push notifications and including pop-up messages for app users threatening a loss of income for most drivers if they don’t vote yes on Prop 22.
While these app-based companies are spending millions in the name of exploiting workers to protect their bottom line, the initiative could have greater repercussions for app-based business models as a whole.
Given the 7/8ths majority needed for the state legislature to overturn the measure, should Prop 22 prevail, workers in other industries could soon see themselves in a similar situation with few options for recourse.
In a recent piece for CalMatters, Ray Fuentes, a Skadden Fellow at the Partnership for Working Families, noted that, “Every nurse, janitor or construction worker in America could be hired by an app like Uber and Lyft’s, dispatched to a job and be told that they are performing their work as an ‘independent business,’ not an employee.”
This would be a huge step backward for the labor movement, creating new avenues for employers to cut labor costs while exploiting employees.
Corporations have long used the initiative process as a means of buying a law to suit their profits best. Some have succeeded while others have failed. We hope voters check this one off as a failure.