Sacramento Valley Union Labor Bulletin

Owned and Published by the Sacramento Central Labor Council and the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building & Construction Trades Council, official councils of the AFL-CIO


Labor wins gig economy victory

By Sheri Williams

A California judge has overturned Proposition 22 as unconstitutional and unenforceable, giving SEIU and workers a victory in their ongoing fight to protect so-called gig economy workers.

Proposition 22, which passed last year after a $200 million campaign by Uber, Lyft and other gig economy companies, denied workers from being classified as employees—and thereby receiving protections and benefits. Instead, they were forced to remain independent contractors. The law also included provisions that required a seven-eighths supermajority of the Legislature to make any changes to it, an almost impossibly high bar.

SEIU and drivers of the gig companies filed a lawsuit after the passage of Prop. 22, arguing that it prevented the Legislature from making gig workers eligible for workers compensation. A judge in August ruled in their favor.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch also wrote in his ruling that the law unfairly prevented workers from organizing into unions.

The law “appears only to protect the economic interests of the network companies in having a divided, un-unionized workforce, which is not a stated goal of the legislation,” he wrote.

Because propositions cannot be changed once passed by voters, Roesch ruled it unenforceable because of the flaws.

“They tried to boost their profits by undermining democracy and the state Constitution,” Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California State Council, told media after the ruling. “For two years, drivers have been saying that democracy cannot be bought. And today’s decision shows they were right.”

Gig companies have said that they will appeal the ruling, likely meaning the case will wind its way to the California Supreme Court in coming years.