Some Uber, Lyft drivers sue to overturn California's Prop. 22 ballot measure

LOS ANGELES -- Drivers for app-based ride-hailing and delivery services filed a lawsuit Tuesday to overturn a California ballot initiative that makes them independent contractors instead of employees eligible for benefits and job protections.

The lawsuit filed with the California Supreme Court said Proposition 22 is unconstitutional because it limits the power of the Legislature to grant workers the right to organize and excludes drivers from being eligible for workers' compensation.

Voters approved Prop. 22 back in November. Companies like Uber, Lyft other services poured $200 million in support of it, and Prop. 22 passed with nearly 60% of the vote.

Labor unions, who joined drivers in the lawsuit, spent about $20 million to challenge it.

Dozens of ride-share drivers caravanned and rallied outside Los Angeles City Hall after a coalition of drivers and a labor union filed the lawsuit to overturn Prop. 22.

Prop. 22: Rideshare-driver measure is most expensive in California history
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Proposition 22 has become the most expensive measure in California history with over $204 million contributed to this single issue.

"Prop. 22 is unconstitutional. It's an attack on California's rights that if left unchecked will grant permission to companies like Uber and Lyft to dismantle workers' rights across the country," said Bob Schoonover of the SEIU union.

The coalition behind the effort to overturn it says they're filing the lawsuit now because they had to wait for Prop. 22 to become law. Now that the election is over and the vote is certified, Prop. 22 can be challenged in court.

In a written statement to Eyewitness News, the Prop. 22 coalition of supporters, which includes Uber, Lyft and some drivers says:

"Voters across the political spectrum spoke loud and clear, passing Prop 22 in a landslide. Meritless lawsuits that seek to undermine the clear democratic will of the people do not stand up to scrutiny in the courts."

It will be up to the state Supreme Court to decide the fate of Prop. 22.

Drivers bringing the lawsuit have several hurdles to clear, but their arguments are compelling, said Mary-Beth Moylan, associate dean of McGeorge Law School in Sacramento.

RELATED | Prop. 22 explained
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The California Legislature picked a fight with Uber and Lyft and other companies when it passed AB5, classifying their drivers as employees. The tech companies are fighting back with Proposition 22.

The first challenge is getting the California Supreme Court to take the case instead of kicking it to lower courts to weigh the facts. To do so, the high court would have to find the arguments are legal, not factual, and there is urgency to decide the issue, Moylan said.

The second challenge is that courts have generally granted broad deference to voters to pass such initiatives.

"Generally speaking, courts in California don't like to overturn the will of the people," Moylan said. "But the petitioners' claim is that the people did not really have the power to do what they did. There are instances where the California courts have come in and said ... it's nice that this is what the people wanted to do, but our constitution doesn't permit the people to do this."

The lawsuit is the latest round in the high-stakes fight between labor and the titans of the gig economy, all based in San Francisco.

Proposition 22 was written by Uber and Lyft and supported by DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart to challenge the landmark labor law AB5 passed by Democrats in 2019. It expanded a California Supreme Court ruling that limited businesses from classifying certain workers as independent contractors.

The measure granted the delivery services an exemption from the law that would have required providing drivers with protections like minimum wage, overtime, health insurance and reimbursement for expenses.

Under the measure, drivers remain independent contractors exempt from mandates such as sick leave and expense reimbursement but would receive "alternative benefits," including a guaranteed minimum wage and subsidies for health insurance if they average 25 hours of work a week.
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