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Judge rules California’s gig worker law is unconstitutional

Friday’s ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by three drivers and labor union Service Employees International Union who argued the law was unconstitutional because it limited the state Legislature’s ability to make gig workers eligible for the state’s workers’ compensation program.

(CN) — A California Superior Court judge ruled Friday evening that a 2020 ballot measure that considered gig workers as independent contractors with limited benefits is unconstitutional.

The movement behind Proposition 22 was supported by gig economy companies such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, who spent more than $200 million to promote the ballot initiative which passed last November.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch said in his ruling that “the entirety of Proposition 22 is unenforceable” because it “limits the power of a future legislature to define app-based drivers as workers subject to workers’ compensation law.”

“A prohibition on legislation authorizing collective bargaining by app-based drivers does not promote the right to work as an independent contractor, nor does it protect work flexibility, nor does it provide minimum workplace safety and pay standards for those workers,” he wrote.

Roesch was critical of the law, which he said, “appears only to protect the economic interest of the network companies in having a divided, ununionized workforce.”

The Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Coalition, an organization that represents the gig economy companies, said it would appeal the decision.

“This outrageous decision is an affront to the overwhelming majority of California voters who passed Prop 22,” the group’s spokesman Geoff Vetter said in a statement. “We will file an immediate appeal and are confident the Appellate Court will uphold Prop 22.”

The law will remain in force while being appealed.

Friday’s ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by three drivers and labor union Service Employees International Union who argued the law was unconstitutional because it limited the state Legislature’s ability to make gig workers eligible for the state’s workers’ compensation program.

Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California State Council, applauded the decision.

“Today’s ruling by Judge Roesch striking down Proposition 22 couldn’t be clearer: The gig industry-funded ballot initiative was unconstitutional and is therefore unenforceable,” he said in a statement. “Companies like Uber and Lyft spent $225 million in an effort to take away rights from workers in a way that violates California’s Constitution.

“For two years, drivers have been saying that democracy cannot be bought. And today’s decision shows they were right,” he said.

Proposition 22 passed 59-to-41 percent last November. The measure was bankrolled by gig economy companies in response to a 2019 state law that classified gig workers as employees. 

Uber and Lyft both threatened to leave the state if Proposition 22 failed to pass.

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