SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A group of Uber drivers claim they are being subjected to a “constant barrage” of in-app messages urging them to support Proposition 22, a California ballot measure to exempt Uber and other rideshare and delivery companies from having to classify gig workers as employees.
"This case challenges Uber's wrongful efforts to dictate to its drivers — a captive audience whose members are economically dependent on Uber for their jobs, their pay, and for the timely, favorable, and plentiful ride-sharing assignments that Uber can provide — how they should vote in the upcoming election and what they should do to support Uber’s Yes on Prop 22 campaign,” says their class action filed in San Francisco.
The initiative takes aim at Assembly Bill 5, passed by the California Legislature last year, which classified droves of gig workers as employees and mandated that businesses provide them with health insurance, mandatory minimum wages and other benefits.
Adding a new sense of urgency to the battle at the ballot box is an appellate court’s eleventh-hour ruling upholding a San Francisco judge’s order that Uber and Lyft begin classifying its drivers as employees, triggering threats from both companies to pull out of California altogether.
The 70-page ruling released late Thursday found the judge rightly issued an injunction forcing the companies to reclassify its drivers as employees. The latest order takes effect in 30 days after the case is officially sent back to the trial court.
“When violation of statutory workplace protections takes place on a massive scale, as alleged in this case, it causes public harm over and above the private financial interest of any given individual. This is particularly true nowadays, with the diminished efficacy of private enforcement of workplace remedies due to the widespread adoption and ready enforceability of contractual arbitration clauses,” Justice Jon Streeter wrote.
“The trial court found that rectifying the various forms of irreparable harm shown by the People more strongly serves the public interest than protecting Uber, Lyft, their shareholders, and all of those who have come to rely on the advantages of online ride-sharing delivered by a business model that does not provide employment benefits to drivers.”
Uber and Lyft, along with food delivery companies Instacart and Doordash, have poured millions into Proposition 22, which would solidify app-based drivers’ status as independent contractors. It also sets limits on the number of hours they can work each day and would offer minimum wages and some health insurance subsidies.
With the fate of their business in the balance, Uber has taken to bombarding its drivers with messages about Proposition 22, urging them to respond to opinion surveys and submit favorable videos to use in its campaign, the lawsuit also claims. It adds that Uber does not reassure drivers that it will not monitor their answers or favor those who support the measure.
Davis White, Uber's public affairs director in California, blasted the lawsuit in an email to Courthouse News.
"This is an absurd lawsuit, without merit, filed solely for press attention and without regard for the facts,” he said. "It can’t distract from the truth: that the vast majority of drivers support Prop 22, and have for months, because they know it will improve their lives and protect the way they prefer to work.
“Today’s ruling means that if the voters don’t say Yes on Proposition 22, rideshare drivers will be prevented from continuing to work as independent contractors, putting hundreds of thousands of Californians out of work and likely shutting down ridesharing throughout much of the state. We’re considering our appeal options, but the stakes couldn’t be higher for drivers — 72% of whom support Prop. 22 — and for the California economy, where millions of people are jobless and another 158,000 just sought unemployment support this week.”