On Nov. 3, 2020, Uber, Lyft and Postmates won a highly contested ballot initiative on labor rights in California, codifying that their workers will remain independent contractors, instead of employees. Mere weeks later, the companies are working to secure similar laws nationwide, including in Illinois and New York.
Prop-22, the California initiative, was supported by a record-setting $200 million and massive marketing campaign. Before and after Election Day, driver groups and labor advocates argued the gig companies were pushing misinformation to voters, causing confusion about how the law would affect workers’ rights and protections.
The effects of Prop-22 are far-reaching for both corporate and lower-to-middle class America. Prop-22 effectively secured the long-term viability of gig companies, exempting them from the high costs of minimum wages, unemployment benefits, health insurance, and workers’ compensation. Gig workers, on the other hand, have few protections and no safety net. For instance, a UC Berkeley Labor Center study estimates that drivers will be guaranteed only $5.64/hour (when accounting for time on the app, waiting for fares), under Prop-22. The law also leaves gig workers vulnerable in regards to work injuries and unwarranted deactivations (see: firings) from the platforms. Simply stated, when something goes wrong, the workers are left to fend for themselves.
Uber’s CEO has stated publicly that the company is researching how to pass similar measures in other major markets. Crain’s reported that Lyft has already launched a SuperPAC in Illinois with the goal of codifying its drivers’ independent contractor status. Lyft also started a nationwide coalition called App-Based Work Alliance, with labor rights – or lack thereof – as the chief agenda.
“If voters understood the implications of Prop-22, they would have rebuked the law on its face,” LegalRideshare attorney and co-founder Bryant Greening said. “The time is now to ensure voters appreciate the effects of these measures before they show up on local ballots.”
Greening said many of his clients are fearful that Prop-22-like laws will sweep the nation. “Gig workers have steadily seen their rights and wages decrease, as gig companies search for ways to reduce costs,” Greening said. “Our community must prioritize human rights over corporate profits.”
LegalRideshare is the only law firm in the U.S. entirely dedicated to protecting gig workers after accidents and injuries.
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