California's Proposition 22 has been ruled unconstitutional by a superior court judge on Friday. The decision is being hailed as a big win for gig workers and a major blow to rideshare and food delivery apps.
In the fall of 2020, CA passed the Uber
Prop 22, on the other hand, argued that gig workers should be treated as independent contractors rather than as traditional employees. This meant that companies like Lyft, Uber, and DoorDash
Superior court judge in Alameda County Frank Roesch determined that portions of Prop 22 were in violation of the state's constitution, making the entire law unenforceable.
Roesch found Prop 22 unconstitutional because it "limits the power of a future legislature to define app-based drivers as workers", it "defines unrelated legislation as an 'amendment'", and it reportedly includes sections that are not relevant to the law's stated purpose.
The judge's ruling is regarding a case brought by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the second such case that has been brought by worker advocates against Prop 22. A prior lawsuit covering similar claims was rejected by the California Supreme Court who sent the case to a lower court.
"For two years, drivers have been saying that democracy cannot be bought. And today's decision shows they were right," President of SEIU California State Council Bob Schoonover said in a statement.
In order to increase the odds that Prop 22 would pass in the state, companies that rely on gig workers, including Lyft, Uber, DoorDash, and others, spent $205 million on advertising and other campaign efforts.
"To get Prop 22 passed, gig companies - which have yet to turn a profit - spent a historic $205 million on their campaign, effectively creating a political template for future anti-democratic, corporate law-making," co-founder of AI Now Institute and Veena Dubal Meredith Whittaker wrote.
While both AB-5 and Prop 22 technically only apply to CA workers, they have an impact on the future of the entire gig industry. The success of either of these measures in CA makes it more likely that similar gig worker reforms could be made in other states. This makes Roesch declaration a big wins for gig workers and gig worker advocates, including lawmakers like San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra, D.
"The judge is right and I think we were right, those of us that were fighting against Prop 22," Kalra said on Twitter
While gig workers often choose their positions due to the flexibility and independence of the work, being classified as an independent contractor means missing out on significant employee benefits.
"They have not been given healthcare. They're given a little stipend but it doesn't even cover a small portion of the cost so most of the ride-share workers are on Medi-Cal or Medicare. We're basically subsidizing the profits of these companies."
However, gig worker advocacy groups like Gig Workers Rising argue that Prop 22 was an "illegal corporate power grab" carried out by "a handful of rogue corporations that continue to act above the law."
"Prop 22 is not just harmful for gig workers-it is also dangerous for our democracy." the group's leader, Shona Clarkson, said in a statement. "This fight is not over until all gig workers receive the living wages, benefits and voice on the job they have earned."
Roesch's decision on Prop 22 is expected to be appealed, and both Uber and Lyft have announced plans to do so.
According to a spokesperson for Uber, Roesch's ruling "ignores the will of the overwhelming majority of California voters and defies both logic and the law. You don't have to take our word for it: California's Attorney General strongly defended Prop 22's constitutionality in this very case."
Lyft, on the other hand, has released a statement claiming that "the judge made a serious error by ignoring a century's worth of case law requiring the courts to guard the voters' right of initiative" and further stated that Prop 22 would remain in effect until the appeals are complete.