SEIU 1021

The fate of the anti-worker Proposition 22 goes to California Supreme Court


The Supreme Court of California granted a request by the California Gig Workers Union on June 28, 2023, to decide the constitutionality of 2020’s California Proposition 22, a voter-approved measure to classify drivers for gig corporations such as Lyft, Uber, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates as contractors rather than employees. The court’s action set aside a lower-court ruling that had primarily upheld the 2020 ballot measure.

“More than two years after the passage of Prop 22, gig workers like me across California are still demanding basic rights like paid sick leave, meaningful health benefits, and overtime pay,” said Hector Castellanos, a plaintiff in the case who is an Uber driver and leader of the California Gig Workers Union. “Right now, drivers are still struggling to make ends meet because wealthy corporations like Uber, Lyft, and Doordash are relentless in their drive to avoid paying us fairly and respecting our rights. We’re sick of Prop 22, and we remain committed in our fight to beat it.”

Under California labor law, employees are entitled to benefits, such as minimum wage, meal breaks, rest pauses, workers’ compensation, healthcare, paid overtime, and repayment for expenses, such as fuel costs, not provided to independent contractors.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch struck down Proposition 22 in August 2021, saying it violated state constitutional provisions, including legislative authority to grant workers’ compensation. But the California First District Court of Appeal ruled in March 2023 that the state’s voters have the same power as the California State Legislature to regulate workers’ compensation and other conditions of employment.

“With Prop 22, the gig companies are violating our constitution and undermining its spirit,” expressed Castellanos. “Our constitution is supposed to give us rights, not take them away. It’s supposed to give us a voice through our elected officials, not undercut their power to pass laws that protect us. I’m grateful that the California Supreme Court is reviewing the case, and we are hopeful it will defend our state’s constitution so that gig workers are treated with dignity and respect.”

Over in Washington, D.C., the Biden administration has raised the possibility of taking over the issue, defining the drivers as employees under federal law. The United States Department of Labor announced in October 2022 that it was considering national regulations that would classify workers as employees if they are “economically dependent on their employer for work” rather than being “in business for themselves”—somewhat like the standards set by the California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court and 2019’s Assembly Bill 5 that were overridden for app-based drivers by Proposition 22.