California voters can vote this November on a ballot initiative that would exclude Uber and all app drivers from the AB5 law that compels companies to treat independent contractors as employees with all attendant benefits.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced on Friday that the measure had garnered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act allows drivers to remain independent contractors but provides them new benefits, including a wage of 120% above the minimum wage and contributions to a Covered California health plan. They would also 30 cents per mile.
The initiative got the required 623,212. That bench mark is 5% of the total votes cast for governor in 2018.
It was supported by an organization funded by Uber, Lyft and Door Dash and calling itself Protect App-Based Drivers and Services.
In a television and digital advertising campaign the industry group distributed statements from many drivers supporting the initiative. “What’s going on in the world right now this is my only way of making money,” said Kee Broussard, a Los Angeles area mother, real estate agent and app-based delivery driver. I need this independent work and the community needs me. When I hear that some politicians are trying to take independent work away from people and families it’s devastating. We need to protect this critical work.”
The head of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Sacramento also turned it into a civil rights issue, arguing that AB5 harms drivers who are minorities. “Families across California are struggling to make ends meet, particularly people of color and lower-income individuals,” Tecoy Porter said in a statement. “This ballot measure will protect the rights of workers to earn extra income or primary income on their own terms while providing historic new earnings and benefit guarantees. This measure is a good deal for California workers.”
Supporters disseminated a study by the Berkeley Research Group claiming that the enforcement of AB5 would mean the loss of 900,000 driving positions, because Uber and the other companies would not want to make them employees. The study conducted by former state legislative analyst William Hamm and UCLA professor David Lewin, found that the “employment model will unavoidably require the network platform companies to eliminate the flexibility provided to drivers currently working as independent contractors in order to control the companies’ operating costs and assure compliance with the many legal requirements that apply to employment (eg, ages and hours, meal and break, etc.).
“The evidence makes clear that this unavoidable change in operations will bring about a massive reduction in the number of drivers that are both willing to provide app-based transportation services and needed by the network platform companies.”
Porter welcomed the decision on Friday.
“App-based driving is under threat. That’s why we need this ballot measure to pass, to end the uncertainty and make sure people maintain the ability to earn money on their terms, when their schedules allow, “ he said.
However, union leaders expressed optimism that the measure can be defeated in November. Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer for the California Labor Federation, said, “This attempt by Uber and Lyft to buy their way out of providing basic protections to their own workers and shift the burden to taxpayers isn’t going to fly. We’re confident voters will reject this cynical measure to ensure these multi-billion dollar companies play by the same rules as all other law-abiding businesses.”