As my colleague J.C. Pan wrote after Prop 22’s passage, the measure “was always the tech giants’ to win.” They ran a public awareness campaign that included putting stickers in support of the measure on people’s groceries, with many of these efforts designed to mislead voters on what exactly Prop 22 did. Because nothing makes sense, these gig giants convinced—or just confused—voters that they were on the side of workers and that a labor law meant to help enforce minimum wage and other protections was the real villain. The gambit worked, with one poll showing that 40 percent of voters in favor of Prop 22 said they thought it was designed to provide workers a living wage.
Prop 22 was sold by the tech companies funding it as a way to grant their drivers more freedom and more flexibility. In reality, the measure did little to actively improve their working conditions and instead solidified the ability of these companies to pay their workers less than the minimum wage and dodge the benefits packages that are regularly the cornerstone of union contracts. As author Steven Hill wrote for Fortune in December, the supposed benefits of Prop 22 were more sleights of hand:
The value of Proposition 22’s health benefit is estimated at about $1.20 an hour—well below the $4 to $6 hourly value of benefits mandated for employees under state and federal laws.
Proposition 22 also appears to offer to drivers a new hourly minimum wage of at least $16.80 per hour. But read the fine print: A complex formula will be used in which only “engaged hours” (when the driver has a passenger in the car) will be counted as hours worked when calculating the minimum wage.
A driver, in a 10-hour shift, might only have passengers for five hours. If the driver earns $100 in that shift, that would amount to only $10 per hour—less than California’s legal minimum wage of $12 per hour.
It should come as little surprise that the companies are now increasingly invested in seeing this measure spread beyond California. The gig giant gang and their associated sycophants got back together in New York, with Spectrum reporting in late December that corporate lobbyists and state business leaders are already starting the push, ahead of the upcoming legislative session. The language is essentially being lifted straight from the Prop 22 ads. “These workers have made it clear, they enjoy their work flexibility that is proving to be valuable during a time when incomes mean so much,” Business Council President Heather Briccetti said.