By Rick Callender

Most Californians are feeling squeezed by rising costs of living, crippling inflation and skyrocketing interest rates. Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, it’s Black and Brown communities that are disproportionately feeling the brunt of our country’s financial woes. While the last three years have certainly demonstrated economic upheaval across California, Black communities have long been victims of systemic racism ingrained in traditional hiring practices. Thankfully, app-based contract work has offered access to income earning opportunities for communities of color, helping uplift minority owned businesses while supporting communities of color who rely on these services for transportation, food and delivery services.

In 2020, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 22, the “Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act” – with a whopping 60 percent of the vote. The measure was important because it classified app-based drivers as independent contractors – not employees, but also guaranteed drivers historic benefits and workplace protections that they did not have access to before Prop 22. A study done after the law passed showed that California drivers earn, on average, more than $34 per hour including tips – a 26 percent increase since before Prop 22 became law. The flexibility and freedom Prop 22 provided has been exceedingly popular among drivers as well, with 75 percent of drivers saying they would prefer to remain independent contractors.

Thankfully, the recent ruling by the California Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of Prop 22 and affirmed that drivers should be able to remain independent contractors and that should remain the law of the land.

Despite clear victory at the ballot and clear support among drivers, opponents of Prop 22 have continually sought to overturn the landmark law in the courts, an affront to the will of the voters and to our very democracy. The CA-HI NAACP strongly supported and advocated for Prop 22 since its passage because 90 percent of Black drivers supported the measure and more than two thirds believe independent contract work is preferable. The bottom line is, we are pleased to see the Court do the right thing.

Regardless of the positive news this week for drivers, it will be no surprise if the special interest-backed opponents of Prop 22 look to take further action and try to undo the landmark law. What they are clearly missing is that those actions would significantly harm income-earning opportunities for app-based drivers who depend on the platforms to make ends meet and require flexibility and independence to do this work.

Thousands of businesses across the state have also relied on app-based platforms to help their dreams succeed – many of which are Black-owned businesses. Kiddie Commute, “a full-service transportation company” for children in San Diego is an example of the entrepreneurial spirit app-based platforms have helped flourish. As of July 2019, Kiddie Commute was the only Black woman-owned transportation company in the state, offering gig economy workers the opportunity to earn income as independent contractors.

The benefits that Prop 22 brings to the Black community are vast. Not only does independent contract work give the flexibility for drivers to earn when they want, where they want, but it helps uplift Black businesses and communities as well.

The California Court of Appeal did the right thing in upholding Prop 22 and it’s high time the voice of voters be left as the law of the land.

Rick Callender serves as president of the NAACP California/Hawaii State Conference.

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