California court rules gig worker initiative unconstitutional

A California judge ruled Friday that Proposition 22, a 2020 ballot measure exempting Uber and other companies from a state labor law by classifying drivers as independent contractors, is unconstitutional and unenforceable because it interferes with the legislature’s power to set workplace standards. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed the lawsuit.

Proposition 22 passed in November with 58 percent of votes. Uber, Lyft, and other app-based services spent $200 million in its favor. The provision is in response to Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), a 2019 labor law requiring companies to give benefits to more workers. Proposition 22 mandates that the app-based companies provide a health care subsidy and wage floor in place of following AB 5.

A clause requires 7/8ths of the state legislature to support amendments to Proposition 22. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch explained in the ruling that Proposition 22 “limits the power of a future Legislature to define app-based drivers as workers subject to workers’ compensation law.”

Further, a provision preventing the legislature from granting collective-bargaining rights to drivers is unconstitutional because it “appears only to protect the economic interests of the network companies in having a divided, ununionized workforce.”

Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California State Council, said: “[T]oday’s ruling by Judge Roesch striking down Proposition 22 couldn’t be clearer: The gig industry-funded ballot initiative was unconstitutional and is therefore unenforceable. For two years, drivers have been saying that democracy cannot be bought. And today’s decision shows they were right.”