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Uber And Lyft Spent Millions To Win Proposition 22

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A demonstration in Los Angeles to urge people to vote no on Proposition 22At the start of 2020, organized labor had a lot to celebrate.The workers’ rights advocates who for years had warned of the potentially devastating impact of the growing gig economy had succeeded in getting California to pass landmark legislation that would defend basic labor rights for hundreds of thousands of people.At the time, the coronavirus pandemic — which would crater the economy and wipe out millions of jobs — wasn’t even a consideration; for unions, things were looking up.The passing of the law, called AB5, in September 2019 officially made drivers for Uber, Lyft, Postmates, DoorDash, and Instacart employees in California, securing them benefits like a legal minimum wage and paid sick days. “The employers were better at organizing their workers than we were.”She added, “I just want us to act with a sense of urgency.”Nine months later, her concern seems justified.Though it ultimately cost the gig economy companies upward of $224 million, they succeeded in getting voters to pass Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that exempts them from following labor law and from paying certain taxes. And for a moment it seemed like — at least in California — the gig companies’ attempts to sidestep regulation by claiming their products are too innovative to be beholden to labor laws were at an end.But with the passing of Proposition 22, it seems Uber et al. have succeeded in doing just that.It serves as a reminder that the real innovation venture capitalists spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing isn’t in hailing a cab or ordering a Big Mac at the push of a button — but in finding new ways to exploit loopholes in the system.Uber and Lyft drivers protest in CaliforniaLabor leaders have not always agreed on the best strategy for fighting the gig economy’s encroachment.In June 2019, the New York Times reported that even when victory seemed at hand, some union bosses had been meeting in secret with industry representatives to talk about negotiating a deal with the companies rather than continuing to fight them in the courts and the statehouse. All in all, the anti–Prop 22 campaign spent around $20 million — about 10 times less than the companies spent to pass it.Most experts agree that given the sheer amount of money the tech industry was willing to spend, there wasn’t much the campaign against Prop 22 could have done differently.“When you’re facing that kind of opposition spending, it’s very difficult to get your message across,” Smith said. That’s simply a fact.”The worker-friendly veneer of the tech companies’ messaging was so successful that some early focus groups conducted by unions found that voters who had read the proposition’s language assumed it was actually written and funded by the labor movement, according to Smith.“We had as many people saying unions were behind it as saying the companies were behind it,” he said. If laws like Prop 22 are passed in other states, it will cement gig work as something that’s more about getting through desperate times than about finding a path to stability and security.Some leaders within the labor movement are hopeful that President-elect Joe Biden will make gig workers’ rights part of his agenda when he takes office in January.

As said here by Caroline O'Donovan