New Report: Prop 22 is harmful to workers, communities, and good government

A new report from us and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) called “Rigging the Gig” highlights the alarming potential impacts of Proposition 22.

A new report published by The Partnership for Working Families and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) called “Rigging the Gig” highlights the alarming potential impacts of Proposition 22. 

“Simply put, Prop 22 is an effort by some of the richest corporations in the world to permanently exempt themselves from California law. If successful, this measure would become the gold standard for future corporate ballot initiatives to gut the ability of states and cities to protect workers.” said Rey Fuentes, of the Partnership for Working Families. 

Prop 22, the “Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act”, is a ballot proposition funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, & Postmates and has been understood as simply providing a narrow exemption from AB 5 (California’s landmark misclassification law) for these companies.

However, as the report reveals, the ballot initiative goes beyond AB 5, and instead would allow for the broad deregulation of the industries in which app-based delivery and transportation companies operate. Moreover, the initiative would eviscerate worker protections by deliberately misclassifying workers and prevent the California legislature or local governments from doing anything about it. 

“Prop 22 is not just securing an AB 5 carveout for gig companies, it is also designed by gig companies to ensure that these corporations are exempted from having to observe basic labor protections for workers for generations to come. If Prop 22 is not defeated in November, it will become an innovative blueprint for companies to follow in order to more severely abuse their workers and hoard profit,” said Carlos Ramos, Lyft driver based in San Francisco and member of Gig Workers Rising

If approved by voters, Prop 22 would ensure that gig corporations could: 

  • 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 or the 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. 

“Gig companies believe they are above the law, which is why they have chosen to ignore AB 5 and continue to misclassify their workers. The companies claim to care about their workers but have chosen to spend millions on a ballot initiative that will protect company earnings at the expense of workers. In the middle of a pandemic, workers cannot access a single day of paid sick or family leave, and this will become codified into law if Prop 22 is not defeated. Additionally, workers now and in the future are unable to access state unemployment insurance as gig companies continue to misclassify them and refuse to pay into the state’s unemployment fund. If Prop 22 is not defeated, it will initiate a new era of corporate exploitation of workers across sectors as companies will learn that they are able to propose ballot initiatives that free them of accountability.” — Edan Alva, Lyft driver based in the Bay Area and member of Gig Workers Rising.   

What’s more, the measure would cancel local government labor laws that conflict with the measure, including many of the emergency measures — like paid sick leave or personal protective equipment requirements — that cities throughout California pass in response to COVID-19. The measure also has aggressive lock-in mechanisms that all but eliminate the ability of state officials to change the law (e.g., by requiring a 7/8ths vote by the legislature to amend the law); more aggressive than other recent ballot measures. 

“Prop 22  is dangerous not just to drivers, but to all workers and to our entire democracy. Requiring a 7/8ths vote by the state legislation to amend the law and ending any local labor laws that conflict with the measure is unprecedented and is intended to stop state and local officials from taking any action that would protect workers. AB 5 is the law of the land, and in the face of a pandemic, corporations are eager to spend millions to  undermine the law, and create carve outs that leave all of us at greater risk both now during COVID and in the future.” — Cherri Murphy, Lyft driver based in Oakland and member of Gig Workers Rising. 

“If Prop 22 passes, it will send a strong message to corporate America: ‘With enough cash and enough spin, any business can buy its way to an environment free of responsibility.’ The initiative shows just how out of touch the companies are with what most Americans are thinking. At a moment when we may finally be coming to grips with our racist history and ongoing systemic racism, the companies want voters to approve erasing baseline labor rights for their largely Black and brown workforce.” — Rebecca Smith of the National Employment Law Project.

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