California Upholds Most of Prop 22 in Win for Gig Companies

A California appeals court upheld most of Proposition 22, the 2020 ballot measure impacting gig workers. The decision — a victory for Uber and Lyft, among the companies spending upward of $200 million to support the measure — overturned a 2021 California Superior Court decision that found the proposition “unenforceable.” The Service Employees International Union, party to the lawsuit challenging Prop 22, is expected to appeal to the California Supreme Court, which may hear or reject the case at its discretion. Either way, that result can then be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Those opposing the proposition, which also impacts food delivery services such as DoorDash, argued that it was unconstitutional on several grounds. For example, “it set limits on the State Legislature’s ability to oversee workers’ compensation for gig drivers,” The New York Times reports.

In addition, the proposition “included a rule restricting them from collective bargaining that critics said was unrelated to the rest of the measure, and it set a seven-eighths majority vote of the Legislature as the bar for passing amendments to the measure related to collective bargaining — a requirement that was considered nearly impossible to achieve.”

Prop 22 also reinforced the notion that the companies contracting the workers do not have to “pay costs that an employer would have to,” which could include “unemployment insurance, health insurance and business expenses,” NYT writes.

The three-judge court of appeals panel that ruled on the case “disagreed on two of the three points, but agreed that requiring collective bargaining to occur through an amendment to the proposition ‘violates separation of powers principles,’ and ordered that clause to be severed from the rest of the ballot measure,” according to NYT, which quotes the decision as saying “the proper remedy” is to sever that section and “allow the rest of Proposition 22 to remain in effect, as voters indicated they wished.”

Uber’s chief legal officer Tony West released a statement calling the ruling a “victory for app-based workers and the millions of Californians who voted for Prop 22.”

SEIU California president David Huerta countered with “every California voter should be concerned about corporations’ growing influence in our democracy and their ability to spend millions of dollars to deceive voters and buy themselves laws,” per NYT.

The gig companies say the advantages of setting their own schedule is valued by contract workers, who would have to give up that freedom for set hours if they were employees. Labor activists argue that gig workers are exploited and should have better benefits.

Prop 22 “has been in effect even as it’s gone through the appeals process, provides some protections for gig workers by requiring that companies provide healthcare stipends and minimum hourly pay,” The Verge writes, noting that “gig economy companies have faced scrutiny beyond the fight for Prop 22,” triggering a Federal Trade Commission investigation into “wage-fixing in the industry” as well as misrepresentation as to earning potential.

“The Department of Labor also proposed a rule change that would push companies towards classifying workers as employees rather than contractors” that garnered more than 54,000 comments in two months “and the department says it’s ‘currently reviewing’ them,” The Verge reports.

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