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Prop 22 Ruled Unconstitutional


Good news in the battle for gig workers.

A California state judge struck down a voter-approved ballot measure bankrolled by Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc., DoorDash Inc. and Instacart Inc. that declared drivers for the companies were independent contractors.

Proposition 22, which passed in a statewide vote in November, exempts the so-called gig economy businesses from a state labor law requiring more companies to hire workers as employees and provide them benefits.

The judge found that Proposition 22’s provisions tying the legislature’s hands regarding which workers are covered by worker’s compensation law, and regarding collective bargaining in future gig work, violate the state’s constitution.

“If the people wish to use their initiative power to restrict or qualify a ‘plenary’ and ‘unlimited’ power granted to the legislature, they must first do so by initiative constitutional amendment, not by initiative statute,” Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch said in the ruling issued Friday.

Uber vowed to appeal and said it expects to win.

“This ruling ignores the will of the overwhelming majority of California voters and defies both logic and the law,” Uber spokesperson Noah Edwardsen said in an email. “Meanwhile, Prop 22 remains in effect, including all of the protections and benefits it provides independent workers across the state.”

The California attorney general’s office, which defended Proposition 22 in court, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

University of California Hastings law professor Veena Dubal said the ruling is an “important first decision in what will end up being a very consequential legal battle.”

The California workers compensation law issues presented in the case are relatively novel, making it harder to predict what will happen on appeal, said Dubal, who supported the plaintiffs in a friend-of-the-court filing. “There’s not a lot of case law here to draw on,” she said. 

Of course, there’s a long way to go here. But it does seem obviously unconstitutional to me to limit what the state legislature can do for a specific class of workers. I’m no expert, but there’s a real chance that this does hold up. Though I would have no confidence in the current Supreme Court to do so if it goes that far up the chain. After all, there’s the principle of Fuck Workers that Gorsuch and Roberts have to hold up.

….OK fine, the Supreme Court doesn’t have jurisdiction here. Sue me.

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