Uber, Lyft win as California votes to keep drivers classified as contractors

It was the most expensive ballot initiative in state history

FILE PHOTO: Leandra Montiel, 34, joins a protest by Uber and Lyft rideshare drivers against California Proposition 22 that would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
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Gig economy giants including Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have won their effort to pass a hotly contested ballot measure that will exempt the companies from a state law requiring them to classify most of their workers as employees.

California voters, in the most expensive ballot initiative in state history, approved a ballot measure exempting gig-economy companies from the state labor law known as A.B. 5. Almost 58 per cent of voters were supporting the proposition versus 42 per cent against, with 77 per cent of the vote reported, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office.

Drivers for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and their ilk will receive some new corporate perks but won’t be eligible for full employment benefits and protections as lawmakers had intended. Uber and Lyft alone will save more than $100 million (Dh367m) a year on employment costs, according to one estimate.

The measure, Proposition 22, was critical for the ride-hailing industry in California and beyond. At stake in the vote was the future of these app-based work platforms, which use armies of independent contractors to deliver takeout and ferry passengers across town.

This fight’s importance was reflected in the ballot initiative’s financial contributions. DoorDash, Instacart, Lyft, Postmates and Uber together spent $200m on the campaign, making it the costliest ballot measure in state history. The “No on 22” camp, which was mostly funded by labor unions, only ever raised about a 10th as much.

The measure’s approval means gig companies can continue using independent contractors to power their services. The workers will receive a new set of benefits, like a health insurance stipend and minimum hourly earnings, based on the number of hours they are actively working but not the hours spent waiting for each gig.