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California Judge Strikes Down Gig Worker Exemption From Labor Law

In a blow for Uber and Lyft, a California court has ruled that a 2020 ballot measure making it so rideshare and food delivery drivers were not able to be included in a state labor law is unconstitutional, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The measure, called Proposition 22, was passed with 58 percent approval from voters. It makes it so companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash don’t have to abide by 2019 Assembly Bill 5, which would have forced them to give workers more benefits. The companies pushed back against the law, saying it seemed to be unfairly targeted at their industry. As such, they set about spending around $200 million pushing for Prop 22.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch opined that Prop 22 is unconstitutional as “it limits the power of a future Legislature to define app-based drivers as workers subject to workers’ compensation law,” which makes it so the whole ballot measure is unenforceable, the report stated.

He also objected to another part of Prop 22, which makes it so the Legislature can’t grant collective bargaining rights to drivers. He wrote that this only seemed to serve the interests of the company’s leadership having a divided, un-unionized workspace, according to the report. That provision applies unless a seven-eighths majority of Legislature voted for the collective bargaining rules.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California State Council President Bob Schoonover said the companies had “tried to boost their profits by undermining democracy” and the new decision showed that democracy couldn’t be bought, the report stated.

But a group of gig companies has vowed to appeal the decision by Roesch, with Geoff Vetter, a spokesman for the Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Coalition saying Roesch “made a serious error by ignoring a century’s worth of case law requiring the courts to guard the voters’ right of initiative,” according to the report.

In June, Uber and Lyft were supporting state laws that would more permanently define their workers as independent contractors. This came with negotiations with states, which made both companies agree to give workers some bargaining rights, although less than what full employees have.

Read more: Uber, Lyft Mull Unions To Cement Gig Workers As Contractors

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