#parent | #kids | What Is Proposition 22, The Most Expensive Ballot Measure Ever?

LOS ANGELES, CA — Voting has already begun in California, and mailboxes across the state are chock-full of political mailers — mostly from the Yes On 22 campaign, the most expensive campaign ever waged in the history of U.S. ballot measures.

The Yes On 22 campaign — funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, InstaCart and Postmates Inc. — has already poured more than $186 million into the effort to convince voters that app-based drivers should be exempt from the state’s new gig labor law. If those app-based drivers and delivery companies can’t get voters on their side, their drivers will become employees instead of contractors. The drivers would be guaranteed a minimum wage and receive benefits, severance packages and unemployment insurance just like most full-time employees.

Proponents of Proposition 22 contend that most gig drivers prefer the measure because it affords hundreds of thousands of drivers across the state flexibility and control over their own schedule while guaranteeing a minimum wage (for the time spent on fares) and access to an insurance pool for certain drivers. They also argue that if the proposition fails, companies such as Uber, Lyft, Postmates and Instacart would have to scale back services in suburban and rural areas, let go of thousands of workers and raise prices. Especially during the pandemic, Californians depend on these affordable services now more than ever, they argue.

Opponents of Proposition 22 contend that it would codify an employment system in which a handful of companies can deny workers basic protections such as a guaranteed minimum wage, health insurance, sick time, severance pay and unemployment insurance. If Prop 22 passes, it couldn’t be amended without approval of seven-eighths of the Legislature, an unnecessarily onerous burden that ensures Californians have little chance of turning back if the measure turns out to be a bad deal, opponents contend.

So what exactly does Prop 22 do?

If Prop 22 passes, these app-based drivers would be classified as independent contractors instead of employees, and they would receive training.

Under Prop 22, the ride-sharing and delivery companies would:

  • Conduct driver background checks and develop sexual harassment policies.
  • Have zero tolerance for driving under the influence.
  • Guarantee an earnings floor based of 120 percent of the minimum wage for the driver’s engaged time and reimburse for mileage at 30 cents per mile.
  • Limit drivers to 12 hours of work per 24 hours if the drivers don’t take six uninterrupted hours off between shifts.
  • Provide health subsidies to drivers based on the hours they work.
  • Provide access to accident insurance covering the drivers’ engaged hours.
  • Provide access to accidental death insurance for drivers’ families.
  • Provide disability payments for injured drivers.

Prop 22 gives app-based drivers what they want, said Jeff Vetter, a spokesman for the Yes on 22 campaign.

“Drivers are telling us what they want, and I think we should just listen to them,” Vetter said. “More than 70 percent of drivers say they want to remain indie contractors so they can choose when and how long they want to work.”

Most of the drivers are part time, Vetter said. They may be retirees or students, or they may have other jobs. The contract work allows them to earn extra income according to their own schedule, Vetter said.

Addressing criticism that the measure doesn’t really provide a guaranteed minimum wage because drivers aren’t paid for wait time, Vetter said it’s not realistic to pay for drivers’ wait time

“If you compensate for all the time that people spend on an app,” Vetter said, “people would log on to an app and not accept any rides.”

Furthermore, as contract workers, drivers can work for multiple companies at once. They would lose that flexibility if they were compensated for their wait time, Vetter said.

He also warned that customers would suffer if Prop 22 fails. The companies would likely have to scale back in suburbs and rural areas, he said

“We would see longer wait times — likely doubling, higher prices — likely doubling,” Vetter added

However, critics contend the businesses are using scare tactics and a massive campaign war chest to get out of having to provide a living wage, benefits and decent working conditions to their workers.

“This is an extremely dangerous precedent,” Ken Jacobs, chair of the Labor Center at UC Berkeley, told CalMatters. Jacobs conducted a study that estimated that after wait time and expenses, drivers could make as little as $5.64 per hour with Prop. 22. “They just acted like the law doesn’t apply to them and assumed they could bring in enough money, gain enough political power, to bend the law to their will.”

The No on 22 campaign contends these companies are trying to get out of paying their fair share for the safety net, leaving their workers in the lurch. They warn that Prop 22 signifies a dangerous erosion of labor protection that could seep into other industries.

“If these companies succeed in buying this election, their low-pay, no-protection business model will expand in virtually every industry, leading to unprecedented job loss and a race to the bottom,” warns the No on 22 campaign.

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