Uber and Lyft Just Bought Their Way Out of Employing Drivers

Uber, Lyft, and other gig companies spent over $200 million on Prop 22.

Smith Collection/Gado//Getty

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

California voters approved the most expensive ballot initiative in the state’s history, backed by Uber and Lyft, to undo labor protections for the drivers that fuel their services.

Here’s the background: In September 2019, California passed Assembly Bill 5, a law making it harder for tech companies like Uber and Lyft to treat workers as independent contractors and thus avoid giving them benefits tied to employment, like overtime and health insurance. “They call us independent contractors,” a driver explained to me in April. “They know that’s a lie.”

For workers like Cardell Calloway, who I wrote about earlier this year, AB 5 was a welcome change. Calloway, who delivered food on multiple apps, said he wasn’t able to afford a decent living driving for the apps before AB 5. He even had to live out of his car.

But after the passage of AB 5, gig companies fought the regulation in court and refused to treat workers as full employees. And they put together a ballot measure, Prop 22, to carve themselves out of the new law. Then they threw over $200 million into the campaign to pass it.

The newly approved Prop 22 sidesteps AB 5 by cementing a whole new model of employment for gig drivers. Uber has praised this as a “third way.” The National Employment Law Center said it will create a “permanent underclass of workers.”

The ballot measure will institute benefits like a minimum wage and a health stipend. But critics point out these pale in comparison to what employment would offer. The new “minimum wage,” under Prop 22, for example, could come out to as little as $5.64 an hour, one study estimated.

 

 

 

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate