A union member shows his support of Democratic candidates at a car rally downtown on Election Day.
Proposition 22 prevailed, despite labor opposition. A union member shows his stance on Proposition 22 at a car rally downtown on Election Day. Photo by Chris Stone

The backers of Proposition 22, the ballot proposal that would cement app-based ride-share and delivery drivers’ status as independent contractors, declared victory Tuesday as the measure maintained its lead throughout the night.

With 99% of precincts partially reporting, over 58% of California voters supported Prop 22. In San Diego County — home of Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez who championed restrictions on independent contractors — even more voters backed it at 64%

“Tonight’s victory clearly indicates this solution was preferred by a majority of drivers, customers, and voters, and a model for preserving the flexibility app-based ride-share and delivery drivers need and want while providing historic new benefits the rest of the country should follow,” supporters said in a statement Tuesday.

They included Uber, Lyft and DoorDash.

How California votes on Prop. 22, in fact, has been regarded as a bellwether for the gig economy. From workers to the markets, the entire country watched.

“This debate is very emotional for me. I want to keep driving when I want and for whom I want,” said retiree Jan Krueger, 62, who drives part-time for Lyft in Sacramento.

Another driver Christine Tringali, though, said the companies’ actions were shameful.

“How can someone fight so hard to avoid paying people a living wage and giving them job security? We work just as hard as anyone else,” Tringali said.

Meanwhile, investors on Tuesday appeared hopeful the measure will pass. Lyft shares closed the day up 7% and Uber up 2.8%.

The last voter poll, from Oct. 26, showed a small lead in support for the proposal.

Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the California Labor Federation said the app-based companies  “plowed a record $200 million into a deceitful campaign to strip workers of the essential protections they need now more than ever.” He added that the end of the campaign to defeat Prop 22 “is only the beginning in the fight to ensure gig workers are provided fair wages, sick pay and care when they’re hurt at work.”

After the state Assembly’s AB 5 upended independent contracting not just for app-based services, but in occupations as diverse as music, translation, trucking and journalism.

As a result, gig-economy giants threatened to pull out of the state. Instead, they mounted a ballot challenge.

Their measure only affects their own models, but if voters agree, then it’s unlikely the California legislature will continue to shape laws meant to penalize businesses based on independent contracting. Opponents, which include labor unions seeking to increase membership, argue that the gig economy exploits workers.

Proponents, though, point to independent contractors who have been forced to find work as employees during the pandemic.

The app companies also have challenged the new law in court, but judges so far ruled against them. Uber and Lyft recently lost an appeal, which narrows their options if Prop 22 fails.

California represents 9%, roughly $1.63 billion, of Uber‘s 2019 global rides and food delivery gross bookings, and some 16% of Lyft’s total rides.

Prop 22 would leave gig workers as contractors and provide them with more modest benefits than state law. That includes minimum pay while riders are in their cars, healthcare subsidies and accident insurance.

– Wire and staff reports

Updated 6:19 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020