Prop. 22: Debate on California measure to change status of Uber, Lyft drivers heats up

Proposition 22 will have voters decide a years-long battle between rideshare giants Uber and Lyft and their gig workers fighting for better benefits and protections.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Ben Valdez has been driving for Uber and Lyft for five years and was thrilled when Assembly Bill 5 passed, allowing drivers in California to unionize and obtain better wages and benefits. But if Prop. 22 passes on Nov. 3, the dream of forming a union would burst.

"What Uber and Lyft normally do is they wiggle out of a lot of their stuff. So, they'll put in these clauses or fine print that just kind of prevents us from being able to achieve those goals. I don't think that Proposition 22 and their health care benefits are any different," said Valdez. "The only way we can force Uber and Lyft to make any feasible changes is we have to organize as drivers. There's no other way than to form a union and make sure we get our fair wage of pay."

RELATED: What is Prop. 22? Voters to decide if app-based drivers should be classified as employees or contractors
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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 No on Proposition 22 campaign has raised about $5 million, but the Yes campaign, with major contributions from Uber, Lyft and Doordash, has raised more than $180 million. If Prop. 22 passes, drivers would remain as independent contractors, but be provided with some benefits, health care subsidies, accident insurance and driver background checks.

Food delivery driver Leo Gaister supports Prop. 22 because it will allow him to work for different app-based companies, have the freedom to set his own schedule and do what he wants when he wants.

"Prop. 22 is a good compromise between what the government wanted and what big businesses wanted. Not all the independent contractors are run by big businesses. It's a huge support for small businesses at least in this state," said Gaister.

The apps supporting Prop. 22 have threatened to leave California if they're not excluded from AB 5, but those opposed say what started as freelance work has increasingly become full-time because the companies are paying less and less.

"Uber has consistently dropped the rates and because they've dropped those rates, that flexibility means that we can work longer hours to make the same amount of money. We have drivers out there that are driving anywhere between 40 and 80 hours a week. That doesn't sound like flexibility to me," said Valdez.

If Prop. 22 fails, organizers with Rideshare Drivers United plan to go to the National Labor Relations Board and begin the process of unionizing.
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