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Controversial Gig Worker Ballot Measure in California

On November 3rd, California voters will decide whether “gig-workers” should be classified as employees. The New York Times editorial board published an op-ed encouraging Californians to vote “no” on the ballot measure reflecting its potential far-reaching impact.

California passed a law known as AB 5, codifying a California Supreme Court case redefining the meaning of an independent contractor under state law. Beginning in January 2020, the law expressly excludes certain workers from its provisions. However, it classifies drivers for companies such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash as employees. These companies strongly object to that classification and the resulting obligations it would impose to provide benefits such as minimum wage, overtime, healthcare, and paid sick leave.

Identified as one of the most expensive ballot measure campaigns in California’s history, Instacart, DoorDash, Lyft, Uber, and Postmates created the new measure to persuade California voters to keep drivers classified as independent contractors. Under Measure 22, the drivers remain independent contractors but receive occupational accident insurance for injuries and “funding for new health benefits” for workers on the job 15 plus hours a week. The measure promises “guaranteed minimum earnings” equal to 120% of California’s minimum wage for the time when drivers have passengers in the car. Reported data on whether drivers’ wages will actually increase is mixed because drivers spend much of their time waiting for passengers. The measure requires a very difficult 7/8 supermajority to be overturned if it passes.

Most of California’s major newspapers oppose the proposition. The Guardian projected that the impact of driver classification in California will reach the rest of the country and possibly beyond. Uber and Lyft have threatened to leave California if the bill is passed.