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Uber And Lyft-Backed Prop 22 Ruled Unconstitutional, Setting Up Ongoing Legal Battle

Drivers demand dignity -- Wernikoff CalMatters.jpg
Anne Wernikoff
Protesters carrying signs supporting AB-5, a bill that would change the employment classification for on-demand workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers, in front of the California capitol on August 28, 2019.

A California court ruled Friday that a 2020 ballot measure that exempts app-based rideshare and delivery drivers from the state’s gig worker labor law is unconstitutional.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch wrote Proposition 22 is “unconstitutional because it limits the power of a future legislature to define app-based drivers as workers subject to workers’ compensation law.” That makes the entire law unenforceable, Roesch wrote.

Proposition 22 was approved by 59% of voters in 2020. It allowed workers for companies including Lyft, Uber and DoorDash to remain independent contractors by exempting them from a contentious labor law known as Assembly Bill 5. The ballot measure required those rideshare companies to provide benefits including health care subsidies and wage minimums.

AB 5 was passed in 2019. It required many companies to reclassify long-term independent contractors as employees and offer them benefits.

Labor unions filed a challenge to the ballot proposition in early 2021, arguing it unconstitutionally infringed on the Legislature’s power to establish and enforce a worker’s compensation system by removing app-based drivers from that system.

Backers of Proposition 22 criticized Friday’s decision, arguing it overruled the will of voters.

“This outrageous decision is an affront to the overwhelming majority of California voters who passed Prop 22,” spokesman Geoff Vetter said in a statement.

Vetter said his group would appeal the ruling, which would likely place a stay on the Alameda Court judge’s decision and continue the legal battle over workers’ rights.

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