The Fate Of Prop 22 Will Be Determined By The CA Supreme Court
By Brian Dolber, RDU–Los Angeles Organizing Committee / Former Driver, and
Karen VanDenBerg, RDU–San Diego Organizing Committee / DriverSince 2019
It was a very good announcement for rideshare drivers and delivery workers. Not such a great update for app-based companies like Uber and Lyft
On June 28, 2023, the Supreme Court of California agreed to take the case appealing Prop 22 and make a final determination as to whether it violates the State Constitution and should be overturned. In September, the High Court agreed to hear the arguments which led the appeals court to rule in favor of Lyft and Uber, and they will also hear the arguments that led the Superior Court to rule in favor of fairness–in favor of drivers.
Uber and Lyft– along with delivery companies like DoorDash and Instacart– carefully crafted Prop 22 to be bulletproof. However, this continuing court battle proves they underestimated the intelligence and power of app-based workers and our allies.
Before the dust of false promises and propaganda could settle, driver organizations like Rideshare Drivers United were prepared to challenge the initiative--and we did. The willingness of the CA Supreme Court to be presented with all the information independently brings us closer to having the fair pay, transparency, and voice on the job that we all deserve.
The False Promises of Prop 22
After the California courts, state legislature, and governor determined that app-based workers were entitled to full labor rights, the platform giants in Silicon Valley waged an all out campaign to take those rights away. By bombarding the public with lies and misinformation using a $220 million advertising budget, they appeared to have accomplished their goals when Prop 22 passed in November 2020 (quite an impressive advertising budget for companies claiming to have no profit since inception).
Uber, Lyft, and their partners claimed that Prop 22 would protect app-based workers’ flexibility, grant access to health benefits, and provide a pay base above minimum wage. But after two-and-a-half years of working under this law, studies show that app-based drivers are working longer hours, are unable to access benefits and promised subsidies, and are earning (on average) $6.20 per hour after their expenses. Immigrants and drivers of color face discrimination and unfair deactivations with no transparency or recourse. Wage Study
The Prop 22 earnings guarantee is far less than the minimum wage all workers are entitled to under California law. With the labor laws and regulations that exist outside Prop 22 limitations, workers can access expense reimbursement, overtime, sick pay, family leave, disability, workers comp insurance, and unemployment insurance. These tangible protections provided by our State Constitution are in ADDITION to a minimum wage significantly higher than what is guaranteed for app-based workers under Prop 22.
Even drivers who receive the healthcare stipend must jump through very small hoops for minimal coverage. To access benefits, drivers have to pay for out-of-pocket with no guarantee they’ll achieve the hours needed to be reimbursed for those expenses by the companies. This often causes drivers to choose between healthcare coverage or rent or car repairs. In fact, a majority of drivers without coverage from other jobs or spouses, receive Medi-Cal, meaning they are netting just a little more than what’s considered poverty-level wages in California. Healthcare Study
Discrediting the State Constitution
The initiative process in our constitution was not intended to be an opportunity for large corporations to write self-serving laws–especially laws written at the expense of people it was designed to serve. Unfortunately, that's what happened in the case of Prop 22.
In August 2021, the court in Alameda County declared Prop 22 unconstitutional. According to the court, Prop 22 was too broad and complicated to be enacted through the ballot initiative process. Further, the judge declared that it undermined the state’s authority over workers’ compensation programs.
Gig-companies immediately filed their appeal of the overturn. In March 2023 the handcuffs were slapped back on drivers when the appeals court found only two subsections of Prop 22 unconstitutional leaving the rest of the measure intact.
It was then that lawyers filed another appeal - so as of today Prop 22 is waiting to be heard in the Supreme Court of California.
Lies and Threats
The gig companies are nervous about this appeal. Within an hour of the Supreme Court’s announcement that they were taking the case, Uber issued a communication to drivers that "special interests" started a process that jeopardizes the benefits enjoyed by 87% of drivers who support Prop 22.
Uber's memo went on to say that if PROP 22 is overturned, it would force everyone who works with companies like Uber to apply for open jobs and adhere to assigned shifts.
But these are more lies. NOTHING ABOUT HAVING LABOR RIGHTS MANDATES A RIGID SCHEDULE. It’s the technology that allows App-based transport companies to have us drive when we want to drive.
We know from experience that these companies tend to resort to threats when they feel they are threatened. Back in 2020, Uber claimed they could not continue to do business in the state if they had to pay us consistent with labor rights.
But there is no way these companies would shut down in California, which is home to two of their five biggest markets in the world. And in other cities like New York, where the government has regulated rate cards and a pay floor per hour that includes a fair amount of wait time, drivers in fact pick up their app when they want to work, just like we do here. But they make a lot more money for their time.
The platform giants would rather exploit app-based workers, overcharge customers, short-change the economy, and pass off responsibility for worker safety and well-being to the public. In order to do that, the gig companies have soiled the integrity of our state constitution. And that’s why we are fighting against 22.
Rideshare Drivers United is confident that the Supreme Court will recognize that California cannot be a state that allows the wealthiest to buy laws that suit their own interests at everyone else’s expense.
We need to stand strong against the lies and threats from the platform giants because their attempts to manipulate reality can be convincing and those distortions are about to come our way; we have seen them all before.
Now is the time to build our organization and grow in strength so that when Prop 22 meets the dustbin of history we are able to demand the fairness and justice we deserve.