For many, work is a source of dignity, identity, and purpose– a way to provide for a family and support a community. Yet, however many times app-based companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, and Postmates profess to be “the future of work,” it’s becoming clearer than ever that workers at the core of their businesses have been – and continue to be – shortchanged and exploited. These companies have promoted their platforms as a way to earn a living while maintaining flexibility and freedom. But in the face of COVID-19, this exchange has proven completely one-sided. These companies pocket billions by misclassifying their workforce as independent contractors while blocking them from accessing basic workplace protections.
Yet, having failed to obtain an exemption from this legislation and in the face of mounting legal challenges these companies are funding a deceptive and dangerous ballot initiative – Proposition 22 – that would close off decades of protective labor and anti-discrimination laws in California for their workers. The initiative – entitled the “Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act” – would grant app-based transportation and delivery companies a complete exemption from AB 5, freeing them from complying with California’s labor laws (which they have flouted since their founding) and signaling that corporations can establish a permanent class of unprotected workers.
A yes vote on Proposition 22 would create a permanent underclass of workers in a growing sector of the economy and allow these companies to:
- Avoid ever paying for overtime, critical work expenses (such as full mileage expenses or cell phones), or even the state’s minimum wage. These omissions could cost drivers as much as $500 per week in lost wages and reimbursements;
- Prevent workers from accessing a single day of paid sick or family leave, unemployment benefits many need during this pandemic;
- Deny workers long-term medical or income protections if they are disabled on the job;
- Discriminate on the basis of immigration status - a protection that is crucial given that 56% of app-based transportation and delivery workers are immigrants;
- Obscure access to health benefits that would require individuals to work longer hours for far less assistance than advertised.
Moreover, if enacted, the measure would prevent local governments from protecting their communities by overriding nearly every local law that would conflict with the ballot measure. This includes many emergency laws put into place to protect workers in the face of COVID-19. Finally, the measure would all but eliminate the ability of the state’s elected representatives to ever change the law by requiring a 7/8ths vote of the Legislature to amend the initiative; an insurmountable threshold.