By Peter Leroe-Muñoz
In November 2020, nearly 10 million Californians voted to support Proposition 22, a ballot measure that granted app-based drivers independence in their work while also guaranteeing hourly earnings and other compensation. But nearly a year after its passage, a single court in Alameda County tried to overturn the will of the voters.
The California Constitution grants voters the power not only to elect lawmakers but also to pass or overturn laws directly by ballot measure. Our system of governance in the Golden State welcomes robust citizen participation, and citizen-led ballot measures provide opportunities for increased voter input and investment in our democratic process.
That’s why it is so disappointing that an Alameda Superior Court judge ruled that Proposition 22 is unconstitutional. This incorrect decision disregards nearly 60% of California voters who cast their ballots in favor of the measure in 2020. Thankfully, Prop. 22 remains in effect while this ruling is appealed.
The initiative classified app-based rideshare and food delivery drivers as independent contractors. Companies such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have produced innovative new forms of transportation and food-delivery services where consumers have access to greater mobility and food delivery options. And drivers benefit by earning money on their own time with the freedom to set their own hours. They are not bound by rigid work shifts or a boss telling them if, when or where to work. These flexible work arrangements provide an alternative to workers excluded from traditional, 9-to-5 employment, including parents, students and part-time workers. In fact, drivers have so much work flexibility that they can work simultaneously with competing companies, accepting rides on one platform, then switching to another.
A year after Proposition 22 classified drivers as independent contractors, the positive impact for workers is clear. According to the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development, California drivers earned on average $34.46 per active hour, including tips. This represents an income increase of 26% since 2019.
Unfortunately, rather than listening to the will of the people and app-based drivers themselves, the interest groups that opposed Proposition 22 have turned to the courts, seeking to overturn the measure. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch held that the people don’t have the power to innovate and influence our state’s laws by passing Prop. 22.
Historically, California judges have been loath to overturn the will of the voters. That’s why this decision is as surprising as it is legally flawed. The California Attorney General’s Office, which is defending Proposition 22, asserts that “Even if there were any doubt about the constitutionality of Proposition 22 — which there should not be — those doubts should be resolved in favor of upholding the initiative power.”
App-based drivers couldn’t agree more with the Attorney General’s Office. Not only is Proposition 22 supported by California voters, but it is also backed by drivers themselves. A 2021 study found 82% of app-based drivers were satisfied with the platforms. Consumers also support the convenience of app-based services. These platforms increase access to transportation, prepared meals and fresh groceries for those with mobility issues or without access to public transportation or cars of their own.
Voters and impacted drivers have made their decision clear at the ballot box, and the results should not be overturned by interest groups who want to invalidate an election. California’s Court of Appeal should overturn the lower court’s incorrect decision and protect Golden State workers and voters.
Peter Leroe-Muñoz is the Silicon Valley Leadership Group general counsel and senior vice president of technology and innovation.