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California Supreme Court addresses Proposition 22 case that could affect 1 million workers

Dozens of rideshare drivers and delivery workers gathered on the steps of the California Supreme Court ahead of oral arguments to possibly overturn Proposition 22, which could affect more than a million workers in the state.

“Justice for workers,” shouted one of the speakers.

The chant was met with applause from the crowd, which included rideshare driver Joe Augusto.

“I drive with both platforms, Uber and Lyft, and they are twins. They behave the same. Their price is the same,” he said.

Augusto began driving full-time in 2015 and said that in recent years his income dropped drastically, especially after the passage of Proposition 22.

“What the proposal did is give them a safe harbor to basically do whatever they want. They have cut what they pay drivers by 20% to 30%. At the same time, this happens, passengers pay considerably more; “I you’re saying it,” Augusto said.

He said that as a true independent contractor, drivers would be able to set their own rates, rather than the company setting them for them.

Proposition 22 was approved by voters in November 2020 and reclassified app-based drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, who would be legally entitled to receive benefits.

Oral arguments focused on whether voters have the same power as the legislature to regulate employment conditions.

DoorDash in a statement said Proposition 22 was something voters and workers wanted.

“California voters and Dashers made it overwhelmingly clear that they support Proposition 22 when they passed the law with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Today’s hearing was a reminder that this law, enacted by the people, should be here to stay. More than 80 percent of Dashers and other app workers say Proposition 22 should remain the law, and we hope the Court agrees, DoorDash said.

Lyft also issued a statement to KPIX.

“Proposition 22 protects the independence that drivers value and provides them with benefits such as an income guarantee, access to a health care stipend and more. The Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold Prop 22 was correct and consistent with precedent permanent legal upholding the power of voter initiative. If Proposition 22 is repealed, drivers could lose access to flexible income opportunities and millions of Californians could face difficulty finding affordable transportation,” Lyft said.

The UC Berkeley Labor Center just released a new study Monday that looks at the average income of drivers in five major U.S. cities, including San Francisco. It found that, on average, drivers are paid less than the minimum wage after expenses.

The study reported that rideshare drivers earned an average of $5.97 per hour before tips, while food delivery drivers earned even less, $4.98 per hour before tips.

DoorDash delivery driver David Lewis said being an independent contractor allows him to work whenever he wants rather than being forced to a set schedule, as he might be if he were an employee of the company.

“It allows me the flexibility to be able to put in some extra hours,” Lewis said.

Lewis said his main job right now is working as a pedal taxi driver, but he makes about $2,000 a month working with DoorDash during times when his pedal taxi is slow.

“I don’t consider DoorDash to be a full-time job. I consider it to be something that supplements me to make ends meet,” Lewis said.

In a statement, Uber said repealing Proposition 22 would cost Dashers like Lewis that flexibility.

“Forced employment would be devastating for the thousands of drivers and couriers who turn to Uber for flexible work and for the millions of Californians who would see significant reductions in services and cost increases, or lose ridesharing and delivery altogether. We are confident that the Supreme Court will listen to the will of California voters and defend Proposition 22,” Uber said.

For full-time workers like John, he hopes the court finds Proposition 22 unconstitutional so he can get the same protections as other employees.

“Everyone else has labor standards, rights, and we are singled out where we basically have no labor rights. And we don’t have independent contractor rights like other people do.”

While oral arguments were presented before the California Supreme Court on Tuesday, a ruling is not expected immediately. The court has 90 days to make a final decision.