California voters will decide fate of gig economy workers today

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Leading California will vote on the future of the gig economy on Tuesday, deciding whether to support a ballot bill from Uber and its allies that would bolster app-based food delivery and the status of drivers as independent contractors, not employees.

The measure, known as Proposition 22, marks the culmination of years of legal and legislative bickering over a business model that has introduced millions of people to the convenience of ordering food or a ride at the touch of a button.

Companies describe the competition as a matter of guaranteeing flexibility for a new generation of employees who want to choose when and how they work. Opponents see an effort to exploit workers and avoid workforce-related costs that could exceed $ 392 million each for Uber and Lyft, a Reuters calculation found.

Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Instacart and Postmates, some of whom threaten to close in California if they lose, have put $ 202 million into what has become the most expensive voting campaign in the state’s history.

“This debate is very emotional for me. I want to keep driving when I want and for who I want,” said Jan Krueger, 62, who drives part-time for Lyft in Sacramento and got a tattoo of ‘Mom Lyft’ on her. shoulder.

“Everyone is very concerned about (the companies) leaving or raising prices and not being available in remote areas,” Krueger said of her passengers and driver friends.

The proposal is the app makers’ response to a new California law that requires companies controlling how employees do their jobs to classify those employees as employees. The app companies argue that the law doesn’t apply to them because they are technology platforms, not entities that hire, and because their drivers determine how they operate.

Companies warn they could cut 80% of drivers, double prices, and even leave California if forced to pay benefits, including minimum wage, unemployment insurance, health care and work accidents.

Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates have also challenged the new law in court, but so far judges have ruled against them. Uber and Lyft recently lost an appeal, limiting their options if Prop 22 fails.

California represents 9%, approximately $ 1.63 billion, of Uber’s global rides and gross food delivery bookings in 2019, and approximately 16% of Lyft’s total rides.

Prop 22 would leave gig workers as contractors and provide them with more modest benefits than state law, including minimum wage while riders are in their cars, health care grants and accident insurance.

Company-sponsored surveys have found that more than 70% of current gig workers don’t want to be employees, but work groups have questioned those polls saying drivers are divided.

Christine Tringali, Los Angeles Uber driver, said the companies’ actions were embarrassing.

“How can anyone fight so hard to avoid paying people a living wage and giving them job security? We work just as hard as anyone else,” said Tringali.

Californians are divided on the matter. An Oct. 26 poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies of more than 6,600 state residents found that 46% of voters would vote in favor of the voting measure and 42% against it, with the rest still undecided. The poll had a sampling error of 2 percentage points.

Jonah Cervantes, who voted for the first time and a student in the post-in-vote, contained a “yes” to Prop 22. He hopes to ride for Uber or Lyft in a few months.

“It would be much harder for people to just jump up,” said new drivers without Prop 22, Cervantes said.