Prop 22 Sets Precedent for Gig Workers as Independent Contractors

 

California voters approved Proposition 22 this Election Day, cementing rideshare and delivery drivers’ status as independent contractors rather than as employees. Moving forward, drivers will be excluded from AB 5, a state law passed last year that made gig workers into employees who would have to receive associated benefits.

The vote on Proposition 22 comes as a victory for companies such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, who spent over $200 million in total—a record sum—on a political campaign aimed at passing the measure. The opposing side said drivers, especially those who depend on rideshare or delivery work for their full-time jobs, would suffer under the outcome seen Tuesday.

Hector Castellanos, who has been driving for both Uber and Lyft for five years, said before the election that he opposed Prop 22 because of the difficulties he has experienced in the absence of employee benefits.

“They can do whatever they want,” he said of the companies he works for.

Castellanos recalled getting shoulder surgery in 2017 and being unable to receive any compensation while he had to take time off to recover. He also said that during the pandemic, he has had to increase his hours driving from eight per day to twelve to fourteen in order to make enough money, since ride requests have been fewer and farther between in recent months.

Others stopped driving during the pandemic due to coronavirus concerns. Cherri Murphy’s main source of income came from driving for Lyft until she stopped in March because of the virus.

“I know what it’s like to not have sick leave when I want to secure safety and wellbeing not only for my family, but also for my friends in the middle of the pandemic,” Murphy said.

Uber and DoorDash’s CEOs championed Prop 22 as a way to provide more flexible benefits for gig workers doing flexible jobs.

Several college students who work part-time as delivery drivers said they appreciated how quickly they could sign up and start work since they didn’t have to be hired as full employees.

Thomas Colucci, a University of Massachusetts student who drives for DoorDash in Amherst, said he might have supported Prop 22 if he voted in California.

“If the companies lose, they’re going to make the next best decision for them financially,” Colucci said, pointing out that Uber and Lyft threatened in August to leave California if the state required them to make drivers employees.

Now that Prop 22 has passed, the rideshare giants have said they want to look for ways to compromise with labor organizations, but also that they will advocate for more laws like Prop 22.