California Proposition 22: Classifying Uber and Lyft drivers as contractors, not employees

Election guide

Voting yes on Prop 22 means letting Uber, Lyft and other rideshare and delivery companies classify drivers as independent contractors, not employees.

This would exempt the companies from AB5, the landmark law approved by California legislators in 2019 that required businesses to extend protections such as minimum wage and health benefits to more freelancers and independent contractors. If Prop 22 passes, gig-economy companies would have to provide alternative benefits that include minimum compensation and health care subsidies based on driving time, car insurance, safety training and sexual harassment policies.

Voting no on Prop 22 means the companies would not be exempt from AB5. Uber and Lyft, both based in San Francisco, have threatened to leave California if Prop 22 fails. 

Supporters: Uber, Lyft and Doordash sponsored the bill. They argue that drivers are not a core part of their businesses since they are technology companies, not transportation companies. With help from Postmates and Instacart, the companies have spent more than $180 million to promote the measure.

Jack Kinney, who said he’s been a rideshare driver for two years, said “the employee model is just not going to work.”

“It’s going to change the service,” he added. “It’s going change what they’re able to charge for the service. They don’t want to mess that up.”

Critics: Labor advocates and unions have denounced the proposition. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters said, “Prop 22 exempts these multi-billion-dollar gig corporations from contributing to safety net programs we all need like Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance.” State Attorney General Xavier Becerra has also sued Uber and Lyft for misclassifying their drivers under AB5.

Michael Robinson, who became a Lyft driver five years ago, said Prop 22 would exploit drivers.

“They want to take away minimum wage, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, paid sick days, basic employee rights,” he said.

Robinson also noted that rideshare companies don’t pay drivers to clean their cars, and with the pandemic, they have had to buy their own PPE equipment.

“It takes away profit,” he said.

In this Oct. 29, 2019, photo, Carla Shrive, right, who drives for various gig companies, joined other drivers to support a proposed ballot initiative challenging a recently signed law that makes it harder for companies to label workers as independent contractors, in Sacramento. A battle between the powerhouses of the so-called gig economy and big labor could become the most expensive ballot measure on Nov. 3, 2020, in California history. Voters are being asked to decide via Proposition 22 whether to create an exemption to a new state law aimed at providing wage and benefit protections to Uber, Lyft and other app-based drivers. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
In this Oct. 29, 2019, photo, Carla Shrive, right, who drives for various gig companies, joined other drivers to support a proposed ballot initiative challenging a recently signed law that makes it harder for companies to label workers as independent contractors, in Sacramento. A battle between the powerhouses of the so-called gig economy and big labor could become the most expensive ballot measure on Nov. 3, 2020, in California history. Voters are being asked to decide via Proposition 22 whether to create an exemption to a new state law aimed at providing wage and benefit protections to Uber, Lyft and other app-based drivers. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

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