California voters may have saved Uber and Lyft this week

There was never any question about Joe Biden carrying California by a huge margin on Tuesday, but voters were considering more questions than just who the next president should be. There was a referendum on the ballot known as Proposition 22 and it appears to have passed by a wide margin. This was an important measure, particularly for workers in the gig economy. Prop 22 asked voters to undo one of the many damaging features of AB5, which forced companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their drivers as employees rather than private contractors. This reversal should effectively negate a recent state court ruling that would have essentially driven the two companies out of the state. (CBS Los Angeles)

Following a multi-million dollar ad blitz by app-based companies, California voters approved Proposition 22 on Tuesday night, according to the latest voter count by the Associated Press.

With 71 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday morning, 58.44% have voted yes on Prop 22 and 41.56% have voted no, the AP reported.

Among the one dozen propositions under consideration by California voters in the 2020 Election is Proposition 22, which would classify app-based drivers — who gain income through services like Uber and Lyft — as independent contractors with their own labor and wage policies.

This was a rare moment where California voters actually seemed to act in their own best interests rather than simply bowing to the will of the liberal Democrats they keep putting in office. AB5 was a destructive piece of legislation from the beginning and its passage was driven almost entirely by labor unions and traditional taxi companies (and specifically their unions also) who donate heavily to Democratic campaigns.

Those are the groups who wanted Uber and Lyft driven out of the state for several reasons, none of them good for the public. The traditional taxi companies know that they can’t compete with the quality of service that the rideshare apps deliver at an affordable price without massively upgrading their own technology. And the unions were further incensed over the idea that hundreds of thousands of people were able to nail down part-time work to earn extra money without joining the unions and paying dues. So Uber and Lyft had to go.

They very nearly succeeded, too. But the passage of Prop 22 should put an end to those plans, at least in the short term. The campaign in support of Prop 22 did a good job of communicating its purpose to the public and letting people know what the result would be if it failed to pass. People would go back to being stuck with calling traditional cabs that may or may not show up on time with the cars frequently being in a poor state of repair or cleanliness. The ridesharing apps allow riders to monitor the progress of their driver from the moment they accept the gig until they arrive. And the cars are almost always immaculate.

The idea that these drivers were on the same footing as full-time employees of traditional employers was always farcical. Between Uber and Lyft, there are roughly half a million drivers in California covering nearly the entire state. Reports show that less than two percent of those drivers work 40 hours per week and nearly 90% work fewer than 20 hours. The companies can’t tell them when to drive or which rides they have to take. The drivers use their own vehicles and phones to conduct their business. Calling them “employees” was a joke.

The only other alternative if Prop 22 had failed would have been for Uber to severely ramp up its plans to go to a fleet of driverless cars. That’s super, assuming you don’t mind being driven around by an Artificial Intelligence entity that might decide at any moment that your life has a lower net value than some obstruction it’s about to run into.

Hopefully, this puts the matter behind us, at least in California. Now if we could just convince New York City residents to pass a similar measure.

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David Strom 6:01 AM on June 06, 2023