What is Proposition 22 and why is it important to you?
Prop 22 applies to California drivers who work for app-based rideshare and delivery services such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. Voting YES on it means allowing those drivers to be legally classified as independent contractors. It also means they’ll earn 120% of minimum wage, along with, for those driving over 15 hours a week, extra money so they can pay for health insurance. Additional benefits in terms of compensation for medical costs and protections from discrimination will also apply.
This Prop is important because it stands to institute a compromise between current state law and basic common sense. To explain: In 2020, the controversial California law AB5 essentially made California workers employees until proven freelancers, introducing a raft of gray and tangly regulations with which workers must comply to achieve freelancer (i.e., independent contractor) status. AB5 has undergone revisions, but not enough to allay the fear, uncertainty, and mid-pandemic instability of countless California freelancers. Flat-out: I worked full-time as a ghostwriter for 16 years. I was lucky to have just missed AB5’s sharp teeth. The law would have absolutely flattened and possibly even destroyed my little business.
Presently, freelancers statewide are feeling the very pain I avoided. Meanwhile, though, when hiring people, rather than operating with the ease and comfort of knowing that my state sides with small business owners, I have to squintingly reread AB5’s Excedrin-headache-inducing language, working overtime (just kidding; I’m a business owner!) to ensure that my company is in compliance.
The worst part is, nobody asked for this. Independent contractors were never crying out for the State of California’s help. On the contrary, polling has shown that independent contractors tend to value, enjoy, and even relish their working lifestyles of freedom, flexibility, and autonomy. But this union-driven law, devised to take aim at the hiring practices of rideshare and delivery companies yet in effect touching every California industry imaginable (even if you’re exempt, the unknowns are unnerving), has seemed intent upon getting all California workers to stand in line.
Through Prop 22, rideshare and delivery companies stand a chance at giving their drivers added support and comfort without imposing upon them the rigors and inflexibilities of employee status. Employee status, though a potential source of good benefits (both formal and informal), is not a fit for every worker, less so in a gig economy that the government currently seems ill-equipped to understand, let alone navigate or regulate.
Which is why a YES vote on Prop 22 will mean so much more than allowing drivers to maintain their preferred independent contractor status. It will also strike a body blow to AB5 itself, sending the message to the state that Californians value the relative ease and spontaneity with which we were once able to work as, or hire, independent contractors. In a state where Democrats rule as a supermajority, it’s important for voters to think independently and assert that we don’t like sloppily thought-out laws being shoved down our innocent throats like raw asparagus. It’s bad enough that AB5’s author, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, to whom I penned open letters this year and last—and who responded without so much as acknowledging the statewide wreckage generated by her law—is almost certainly headed toward re-election despite being wildly unpopular in and underqualified for her job. Democratic groupthink alone keeps her there.