Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal
Dispatch No. 31 – United States
In the shadow of the 2020 United States Presidential election, an important vote was also taking place about the employment status of gig workers. In 2019, the California Legislature had enacted AB5, a bill that expanded the definition of “employees” to include workers in the on-demand economy. In response, gig platforms like Uber, Lyft, and Postmates backed a direct ballot initiative, California’s Proposition 22, which asked voters to undo the work of the Legislature. Gig workers would be reclassified as independent contractors, but they would also receive certain benefits, including, among others, the ability to sue for discrimination under California law, a contribution toward health insurance, and a guaranteed minimum wage for time worked. The vote was important for several reasons: California’s Bay Area and Silicon Valley were the starting place for the on-demand economy, the proving ground for Uber and other on-demand apps. California is viewed as a progressive jurisdiction and would rank as the world’s seventh largest economy on its own. As such, when California voters approved Proposition 22 on November 3, 2020, stripping gig workers of employee status and curtailing some of their newly-found rights, it left some commentators surprised and many labor advocates disappointed and concerned.