Proposition 22

Uber, Lyft Happy About Passing of Prop 22 but What About Independent Contractors?

NBC Universal, Inc.

State Proposition 22 was one of the most closely watched ballot measure contests in the country -- and the costliest in California's history, with the two big ride-hailing companies, along with a few other gig-economy firms, spending $205 million backing it.

With its passing, Uber, Lyft and other similar businesses succeeded in keeping drivers classified as independent contractors rather than as “employees."

Other independent contractors, however, were not covered by Prop 22.

Seth Combs, a San Diego freelance writer and former CityBeat editor, voted "no" on Prop 22. He said others in the same line of work did as well.

“I think a lot of people see it as particularly disingenuous that this multimillion corporation -- or corporations, should I say -- you know, only wants exemptions for themselves," Combs said. "There is this feeling that if they really cared about all independent contractors, they would have tried to pass a proposition that blanketed everybody.”

Prop 22 partially repeals Assembly Bill 5, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2020. The state law, authored by local Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, forced companies like Uber and Lyft to classify drivers as employees and give them full benefits. A modified version of AB5 was signed into law in September, allowing exemptions for independent contractors in a variety of industries, including freelance photographers and journalists, and musicians. 

Supporters of Prop 22, including the California Chamber of Commerce, say app-based drivers will now have benefits, such as compensation when they are hurt on the job, and will allow them to maintain a flexible schedule.

Prop 22, though, only impacts app-based hailing and delivery service drivers.

Some San Diegans, like freelance writer Beth Demmon, said Prop 22 could help gig companies remake labor laws throughout the country. 

“I think it will potentially have positive implications for labor across the country, knowing that we can try and still hold onto flexibility that drives a lot of people into the gig economy," Demmon said. "But in a negative way, it allows people to continually be exploited when they are working within this gig economy.”

Jeff Dewine, who also voted no on 22, is a San Diego musician, audio engineer and golf caddy. He said he picked up more work at a Rancho Santa Fe golf club after his daughter was born. Sometimes there was a lot of work, sometimes very little, but when he did work, it paid well. Ultimately, he said, AB5 ended his work at the club. 

“They had said, basically, the laws had changed, essentially, that if I wasn’t an employee of the club, I basically didn’t have  a job anymore,” Dewine said.

Dewine, too, voted against Prop 22.

“The term 'gig'?" Dewine said. "There is really not a gig in Lyft or Uber. It’s not a gig. A gig is like a show. I think that in that term, that they missed a whole batch of people with Prop 22. I think they missed a gigantic group of people.”

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