Rideshare and delivery drivers should not be treated as if they are valued less than working-class Americans
Election season has been welcomed this year just as it has any other: with overwhelming and excessive political advertising. If you’ve seen some of the advertisements this year, odds are you saw one for Proposition 22. As a result of Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Instacart spending at least 180 million dollars on getting the proposition passed, this is the most expensive proposition in state history according to nonprofit site Ballotpedia. Simply googling the word ‘uber’ will bring one to a page where the first result is the ‘Yes on Prop 22’ website. The excessive amount of money being spent on this measure brings into question the power these multi-million dollar corporations have over our elections, specifically in their ability to over-advertise and drown out the voices of opponents.
Proposition 22 is in direct response to California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) that was signed by Governor Newsom in 2019 and went into effect this January. AB5 put strict regulations on who could be considered an independent contractor, forcing employers such as Uber and Lyft to consider their drivers employees and provide the appropriate rights and benefits as such. Proposition 22 was brought up by rideshare companies in response to them falling under the regulations that would inevitably cost them money. The proposition on the ballot will ask
should app-based rideshare and delivery drivers be classified as independent contractors (not employees) and require rideshare and delivery companies to adopt labor and wage policies unique to these drivers?
According to the League of Women Voters’ website, if passed, Proposition 22 would reclassify Uber, Lyft, and other companies’ drivers as independent contractors unless they receive set hours, are required to take specific jobs, or restrict their ability to work for other companies. Further, the LWV states that the drivers would not receive employee benefits and protection such as a set minimum wage, overtime pay, unemployment insurance, or worker’s compensation.
However, drivers would be paid 120% of the minimum wage for the hours they spend driving, receive a healthcare subsidy, have an option to buy on-the-job insurance, and be limited to twelve-hour workdays. Workplace discrimination would be prohibited and companies would need to “develop sexual harassment policies, conduct criminal background checks, and mandate safety training for drivers” (LWV). One of the biggest wins for rideshare companies with Proposition 22 would be the prevention of local governments from setting their own rules such as a higher minimum compensation. The Fiscal Impact of the measure would be the lowering of costs and raising of profits for rideshare and delivery companies while forcing drivers and stakeholders to pay more in income taxes.
One does not need to have a complex understanding of economics to know that this proposition would allow rideshare and delivery companies to maximize profits while providing minimum compensation for their employees. However, the ‘Yes on Prop 22’ website has a plethora of misleading reasons why this measure would improve the lives of their drivers. They claim that the proposition would ‘protect’ their drivers’ ability to choose independent work, provide them with new benefits and protections, save their jobs, preserve food and grocery delivery, and implement new public safety protocol.
Notice how they divert attention away from the proposition benefitting multi-million dollar corporations, for they know that voters would not want something that benefits the few at the expense of the many. Beyond their list of ‘pros,’ the campaign also has the endorsement of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and proudly places it at the top of their homepage. In this way, it is apparent that the campaign is attempting to divert attention away from the corporate benefit and instead morally appeal to voters. They draw attention to the benefits of rideshare and grocery delivery in general instead of the proposition itself, misleading voters and making it seem as if the stakes involved with Proposition 22 are higher than they actually are.
The California Labor Federation is a prominent voice that is speaking out against the ‘Yes on 22’ campaign. The organization is described by Ballotpedia as a defender of “the interests of working people and their families,” showing their oppositional leanings in who they represent in the context of this proposition.
On its website, the organization lists several reasons why Prop 22 would hurt drivers associated with these corporations. They claim that the proposition would deny rights and protections such as sick leave and eliminate safety protections for riders and drivers while also removing any liability from the corporations themselves. Further, they claim that the proposition is misleading and was hastily put through using unfair political operatives. The proposition would inevitably lead to the exemption of these corporations from paying their fair share of money to safety net programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance. They even state that this proposition would eventually lead to job loss in that it threatens middle-class jobs with low-pay, no-protection business models. Thus, the California Labor Federation shows that the facade ‘Yes on 22’ and rideshare corporations are putting on is hypocritical, for the individual as well as the working class is negatively impacted by the proposition.
If Proposition 22 is not passed, workers would likely be considered employees and receive benefits as such. It has been speculated that the prices of rideshare and delivery companies will go up, but if this at the cost of a workplace ensuring rights such as minimum wage, overtime pay, paid sick leave, worker’s compensation, and unemployment insurance, this issue should not be a difficult one to decide on. Corporations should not be allowed to utilize their employees to maximize profits while keeping them in below-standard working conditions. Nor should they be able to sway elections with their financial power in advertising. The situation that has been brought up by Proposition 22 brings into question the role misleading advertising plays in our elections, specifically when it comes to the role corporate power plays.
Victoria Vidales '21,