Political mailers masquerading as progressive voter guides and endorsing Proposition 22, the initiative backed by Uber and Lyft, are showing up in Southern California voters’ mailboxes.
The fine print on one mailer says it was prepared by the “Feel the Bern, Progressive Voter Guide,” which is not an actual organization. Neither are the “Council of Concerned Women Voters Guide” nor the “Our Voice, Latino Voter Guide,” whose mailers make the same endorsements as Feel the Bern.
Mailed political fliers typically identify the organization that paid for the literature. But that information was conspicuously absent from Feel the Bern and the other two mailers.
The mass mailings have the same Long Beach mailing address, which is the office of Gould and Orellana LLC. Gould and Orellana calls itself the “Political Reporting Experts.” SFGATE tried to contact the firm, but no one answered the phone and the voicemail boxes were full.
The mailers back the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket, a number of candidates for courts and college districts, and various propositions, including 22, the App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies Initiative.
The measure would allow ride-hail and delivery drivers to continue to be treated as independent contractors, although with some new benefit concessions. If it fails, these employees would likely be considered workers entitled to a minimum wage, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and paid sick leave.
The California Democratic Party has endorsed a “no” vote for Prop. 22.
Renee Nahum, a Los Angeles consultant associated with the mailers, confirmed that she received $20,000 for her work on the Council for Concerned Women Voters Guide. When asked to clarify who paid for the mailer, she ended the conversation, saying she had to take an important call.
The California secretary of state’s Cal-Access database shows numerous expenditures made by the Yes on 22 Uber/Lyft PAC for slate mailers, including $60,000 for a “California Voter Guide,” $48,750 for a “California Latino Voter Guide” and $20,000 for a “Progressive Slate.” All were made on the same date — Aug. 28.
A slate mailer is a mass mailing (more than 200 substantially similar pieces of mail sent in a calendar month) that supports or opposes a total of four or more candidates or ballot measures.
Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Uber-owned Postmates have spent $185 million in an effort to get Prop. 22 passed, according to secretary of state records. It is believed to be the most ever for a ballot proposition in state history.
The stakes could hardly be higher for the ride-hail companies. Uber estimates that if Prop. 22 fails, ride prices could jump 25% to 111%, according to CNN.
If it passes, however, gig corporations won’t have to contribute to Social Security, Medicare or unemployment insurance. They won’t have to offer paid sick leave, workers compensation or unemployment benefits to drivers. The proposition does make available some compensation to app-based drivers, provided they meet certain hourly requirements.
An analysis by the UC Berkeley Labor Center earlier this year found that had California’s gig economy law been in place between 2014 and 2019, Uber and Lyft would have paid $413 million in unemployment insurance alone. AB 5, which codified a state Supreme Court ruling that made it a lot harder for companies to classify drivers and other so-called gig workers as independent contractors, was signed into law in September 2019.