Prop 22 rejected by California Supreme Court


The California Supreme Court, on Wednesday, February 3, decided not to hear a petition from gig workers and a powerful labor union seeking to overturn Proposition 22, initiative voters passed last year cementing the independent contractor status of thousands of rideshare drivers in the state.

The lawsuit that the state Supreme Court declined to hear was filed last month by a small group of app-based drivers and the Service Employees International Union, one of the nation’s largest labor unions.

The court did not give a reason for its decision but posted a notice on its website on Wednesday saying it had denied the petition.

It alleges Proposition 22 limits the power of elected officials to govern, in violation of the California Constitution, by removing their ability to grant workers the right to organize and give access to the state workers’ compensation program.

This decision strengthens the position of gig economy companies, including Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars bankrolling the measure on the November ballot.

Protections for gig workers in California have been at the center of a political battle between labor advocates and gig economy companies that refused to comply with state labor law requiring them to classify their workers as employees — before the companies secured an exemption under Proposition 22.

The demand for grocery and other food-delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic has put a fresh spotlight on drivers’ working conditions.

Attorney Scott Kronland, who filed the petition on behalf of the drivers and the union, said last month that the writ was filed directly with the state Supreme Court to avoid years of litigation in multiple lower courts. But the court’s rejection means that the case will have to be re-filed in state court and work its way up to the justices again.

The handful of drivers who brought forth the challenge said the Supreme Court’s decision was disappointing.

“We will consider every option available to protect California workers from attempts by companies like Uber and Lyft to subvert our democracy and attack our rights in order to improve their bottom lines,” Hector Castellanos, one of the drivers who brought the lawsuit, said in a statement. Castellanos has driven for Uber and Lyft for about five years.

Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart — the major companies that funded Proposition 22 — did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In response to a request for comment, Kathy Fairbanks, a representative of a coalition called Protect App-Based Drivers & Services, which led the main pro-Proposition 22 campaign last year, cited a statement by Jim Pyatt, an Uber driver living in Modesto.

“We’re thankful, but not surprised, that the California Supreme Court has rejected this meritless lawsuit. We’re hopeful this will send a strong signal to special interests to stop trying to undermine the will of voters who overwhelmingly stood with drivers to pass Proposition 22,” Pyatt said in the statement.

The ride-hails’ campaign coalition Protect App-Based Drivers and Services praised the denial through Jim Pyatt, an Uber driver in Modesto, who said the will of the voters should be respected.

“We’re hopeful this will send a strong signal to special interests to stop trying to undermine the will of voters who overwhelmingly stood with drivers to pass Proposition 22,” he said.

“The ballot measure was supported by nearly 60 percent of California voters across the political spectrum including hundreds of thousands of app-based drivers. It’s time to respect the vast majority of California voters as well as the drivers most impacted by Prop 22.”