Keeping drivers independent contractors: Voting “yes” on Prop 22

Yejin Heo, Staff Writer

Proposition 22 is a general ballot measure that would exempt gig workers in the ride-share industry from Assembly Bill 5, making them independent contractors rather than standard employees. Californians casted their vote on election day, and it has now been confirmed that the proposition has passed.

When gig companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Postmates argue for their workers, it’s because they are genuinely worried about their own revenue streams. But in this case, the self-employed back them up at their own accord by saying that independent contracting is beneficial for them. Even though most of us have no horse in this race—since most high school students are not gig workers—it is preferable to listen to the viewpoints of the people who would be directly affected by this proposition.

“It gives me the flexibility to be around my mom and kids during the day and early evenings,” Uber driver Trisha C said on Drivers for Prop. 22.

“I have health issues that restrict how long I can stand or sit, so being able to stop when I need to is what makes ridesharing perfect for me,” Lyft driver Honey R. said.

“On the days that I am unable to work, I don’t,” Uber and Lyft driver Christine C said.

The driving force behind the California Assembly Bill 5 that Prop. 22 is trying to terminate is California Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez who represents parts of San Diego. Gonzalez was previously a labor leader and organizer, which fueled her proposition that more employees would lead more people to join work unions, which would make Gonzalez more money in the end.

Gonzalez’s proposal for the bill would codify into law the Supreme Court decision made in the delivery service company Dynamex Operations West, Inc. versus the Superior Court in April of 2018, which set standards to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee through a three-step criteria process.

It was ruled that a worker is an independent contractor if they are free from direction from their company, performs work outside the usual course of the company’s business, and is engaged in an independently established occupation or business of the same nature to the company.

After negotiating with other legislators to figure out how to implement the complicated bill, it was signed by Governor Newsom in September 2019 and was put into full effect in Jan. 2020.

Prop. 22 also provides benefits in addition to the sought-after flexibility of the job. It requires workers to be paid at least 120% of California’s minimum wage for the hours they spend driving, and those who drive more than 15 hours a week are additionally compensated for health insurance.

On the topic of health, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has also endorsed Prop. 22, saying that ride-sharing provides a safe, reliable and convenient alternative to drunk and drug-impaired driving, preventing accidents on the road.

At first glance, Prop. 22 could be viewed as a way for companies to create a new class of workers to exploit gig workers by cheaping out on paying benefits to their employees, but it isn’t a loophole for corporations at all.

If gig workers become employees, tech companies will have no choice but to make services more expensive, putting their businesses in jeopardy since customers may not be able to pay for the extra cost. Saying no to Prop. 22 means companies will also have to restructure their business models to accommodate their newly-made employees. Due to the economic downturn created by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is not an ideal time for businesses to restructure.

With Prop. 22 passed, many workers who need a supplemental income will lose their financial safety net overnight. For most workers, ridesharing and delivery is a side job for retired folks seeking work in the community, caregivers with unpredictable schedules tethered to a loved one’s health issues and students with pending timelines for their next final.

The self-employed have been ignored for too long and it would only be right it we gave them the voice that they deserve.