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Uber wins big over gig workers in California Prop 22 vote

Big Tech ride-share and delivery companies spent a fifth of a billion dollars to drum up support for a measure that classifies app-based drivers as contractors.

Uber wins big over gig workers in California Prop 22 vote
[Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images]
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Uber, Lyft, and other ride-share and delivery companies have won huge on Election Day in California. Voters in the state cast their ballots in favor of Proposition 22, which says that app-based drivers are to be classified as contractors and not employees. The passing of Proposition 22 effectively negates the Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) law, which went into effect in January of this year in California. The law mandated that drivers who work more than 15 hours per week be classified as employees.

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The idea behind AB5 was to give gig workers more economic and employment security, including the right to a minimum wage and other employee benefits such as sick leave and healthcare. But with 58% of California voters casting their ballots in favor of Prop 22, that security is now nothing more than a pipe dream for gig workers in the state.

The fact that Proposition 22 passed isn’t such a shock, however. As The Guardian reports, Proposition 22 became the most expensive prop campaign in state history thanks to tech giants such as Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and DoorDash. Such companies opened up their coffers to the tune of $200 million to drum up support for the measure. As Nicole Moore, a gig worker who is also a member of Rideshare Drivers United, one of the groups who sought to defeat Prop 22, pointed out, the $200 million spent by Big Tech was 20 times more than opposing groups spent.

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Yet the fifth of a billion dollars Uber, Lyft, and others spent will be minuscule to those companies’ bottom lines—and result in savings of billions of dollars in the years to come now that they are off the hook for providing their gig workers with more security and workplace benefits.

Most of the CEOs of the Silicon Valley companies that spent big to support the proposition have yet to officially comment on their win. However, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi did retweet—and then delete—a tweet calling California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who spearheaded AB5, a “grifter.”

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In response to the passing of Proposition 22, Gig Workers Collective, one of the groups that opposed the measure, refrained from calling anyone names and instead said, “We’re disappointed in tonight’s outcome, especially because this campaign’s success is based on lies and fear-mongering. Companies shouldn’t be able to buy elections. But we’re still dedicated to our cause and ready to continue our fight.”

This post has been updated to clarify that the tech firms supported Prop 22 and opposed AB5.

About the author

Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com

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