Ride-share drivers and the SEIU labor union are suing to overturn Proposition 22, which allows Uber and Lyft to classify drivers as contractors rather than as employees, keeping them from receiving benefits and labor protections.
The suit, filed Tuesday in the California Supreme Court, alleges that Prop 22 was unconstitutional because it limited legislators’ power, namely by restricting lawmakers from granting affected drivers the right to organize for better work conditions or access to the state’s workers’ compensation coverage.
Californians voted in support of Prop 22 in November. It exempts Uber and Lyft from Assembly Bill 5, a state law that determined app-based drivers should be classified as employees instead of contractors. As employees, drivers would have a right to benefits like a minimum wage, health insurance, overtime pay, sick leave and a right to form a union.
Hundreds of thousands of app-based drivers would be affected, per the suit.
“Every day, rideshare drivers like me struggle to make ends meet because companies like Uber and Lyft prioritize corporate profits over our wellbeing,” plaintiff Saori Okawa said in a release from SEIU. “It’s up to the people we elect to make our laws, not wealthy executives who profit from our labor.”
The defendant in this suit is not Uber and Lyft, but actually the state of California — which, in a separate case last year, sued both ride-share companies to have them comply with state law and make their drivers employees.
The office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said it was reviewing the complaint and would “respond in court as appropriate.”
It is not clear if Uber and Lyft will intervene with their own legal teams to defend against this suit. Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Lyft declined to comment.
Over the last couple of years, both Uber and Lyft have fought tooth and nail against the state law classifying drivers as employees, since providing additional benefits and labor protections would come with a hefty price tag. The companies spent $200 million on efforts to pass Prop 22.
Meanwhile, drivers for the companies have repeatedly protested, including striking nationwide in 2019, in hopes of getting better pay and benefits.
With demand for ride-sharing dropping during the coronavirus pandemic, drivers have been left with less income. Drivers also put their health at risk because they are exposed to the public while working, yet their companies provide them with no health insurance or paid sick leave.
“Just like every other worker, rideshare drivers should have a right to join together in a union and bargain for better pay and working conditions,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said in a release. “We won’t rest until rideshare drivers have the same opportunities other workers have to have a seat at the table with their employer.”
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