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Supporters of Proposition 22 say if the measure fails, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates may abandon California altogether. File photo
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Election 2020: Battle lines drawn over Prop. 22, future of rideshare drivers

REGION — What has become an unofficial referendum on Assembly Bill 5, Proposition 22 pits union and pro-labor allies against ride-sharing companies such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash.

Along with Instacart and Postmates, the five tech firms launched a $180 million campaign for Yes on Proposition 22. The proposition would carveout rideshare drivers from AB 5, allowing drivers to remain as independent contractors.

While AB 5 targets hundreds of professions and has an impact on more than 1 million non-drivers, the battle has been raging since the law was enacted on Jan. 1. Flexibility and independence from an employer versus worker protections has been much of the rhetoric.

As such, Prop. 22 enshrines in law a number of caveats such as a minimum wage, no stealing tips, 30 cents per mile and subsidies for health insurance, all of which will be paid for by the tech giants.

Opponents of Prop. 22, such as AB 5 author Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), claim the companies skirt labor laws and don’t provide benefits like other companies do and exploit workers.

Those in favor say they don’t want to be employees and want the flexibility to choose how and when they work. Additionally, proponents of Prop. 22 say if it fails, it will likely lead to Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates to abandon California altogether, which may devastate small businesses and restaurants relying on those services to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

The numbers

Polling and surveys have flooded Prop. 22 making it difficult to project the outcome of the proposition.

A survey commissioned by Uber made the rounds on social media in early September. The tech firm hired two research firms, Benenson Strategy Group (Democrat-leaning) and GS Strategy Group (Republican-leaning) in an effort for a bipartisan survey, according to Uber.

The results were overwhelmingly in favor of voting Yes on 22. The firms surveyed 1,001 drivers and 1,301 likely voters across the political spectrum.

The results showed 88% of drivers agree with the plan and 82% support it. On the political front, 78% of Democrats are in favor, 75% of Republicans and 74% of independents.

As for the election, a poll conducted by Redfield and Wilton Strategies in August found 41% of voters would vote yes on Prop. 22, while just 26% will vote no and 34% are undecided.

However, a recent poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies showed just 39% in support of Prop. 22, while 36% are against and 25% are undecided. The proposition needs 50% plus one vote to pass.

The Berekely poll also shows 42% of Democrats are against and 31% in support, while Republican support is at 53% with 29% opposed.

The measure has been highly contentious pitting Democrat legislators, who overwhelmingly passed AB 5, and labor unions against drivers and other independent contractors. At one point in August, Uber and Lyft nearly ceased operations, but an 11th-hour injunction by a court allowed the rideshare companies to stay in operation.

According to legislative analysis and bill language, Prop. 22 would provide the following:

  • The companies will not take or retain any tips left to the driver
  • An earnings minimum of 120% of the minimum wage while driving
  • 30 cents per mile and then adjusted for inflation after 2021
  • Health insurance stipends for more than 15 hours of work per week
  • Covers medical costs in case of an injury to a driver
  • Limits local governments ability to set additional rules
  • Lower costs and higher profits for the companies
  • More income taxes from drivers and stockholders