Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc. and other companies scored a victory with a California court ruling that preserves their independent contractor model in the state and could boost their efforts to maintain that model elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal reported.
A state appeals court reversed a lower-court ruling that found a California ballot measure known as Proposition 22 illegal. Proposition 22, which passed in November 2020, allowed these companies to continue to treat their drivers as independent contractors.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Uber and others are in a global tug of war with regulators over whether and how to grant more benefits such as paid sick leave and health insurance to workers in the so-called gig economy, where apps distribute individual tasks to a poll of people whom companies generally regard as independent contractors.
California sued Uber and Lyft in 2020, saying they were in violation of a new state law that sought to reclassify their drivers as employees. A legal battle ensued, culminating in Proposition 22, in which Uber, Lyft, DoorDash Inc. and Instacart Inc. asked state voters to exempt them from the law. The companies spent a record amount of money for a California ballot measure, about $200 million.
The New York Times reported that the decision by three appeals court judges overturned the ruling late last year by a California Superior Court judge, who said the Proposition was “unenforceable.” It was a victory for companies like Uber, which use gig drivers to transport passengers and to deliver food, but does not pay costs that an employer would have to. Those costs can include drivers’ unemployment insurance, health insurance, and business expenses.
According to The New York Times, the appeals court ruling was not the final say. The Service Employees International Union, which, along with several drivers, filed a lawsuit challenging Proposition 22 in early 2021, is expected to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court, which would then have several months to decide whether to hear the case.
The opponents of the proposition argued that the ballot measure was unconstitutional under several grounds. It set limits on the State Legislature’s ability to oversee workers’ compensation for gig drivers. It included a rule restricting them from collective bargaining that critics said was unrelated to the rest of the measure, and it set a seven-eights majority vote of the Legislature as a bar for passing amendments to the measure related to collective bargaining – a requirement that was considered nearly impossible to achieve.
CNBC reported that Proposition 22 created a set of criteria which determined whether ride-share drivers were employees or independent contractors. In practice, it exempted Uber and similar companies from following certain minimum wage, overtime, or workers compensation laws for hundreds of thousands of Californian rideshare drivers.
Instead, according to CNBC, the ballot measure required companies to provide compensation and healthcare “subsidies” based on “engaged” driving time, as well as the benefits, including safety training as “sexual harassment training.”
To me it sounds like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart are desperately trying to suppress drivers ability to form a union, (also known as “collective bargaining”). Unionization would require the large companies to provide drivers with the same types of benefits that other workers, who have unionized, would be expected to receive. It also make it harder for the big companies to fire them.