Gig Workers Collective is a nonprofit grassroots worker collective that engages in worker-led worker-organizing and advocacy in the gig economy. The following Op-Ed is undersigned by the collective and its membership imploring voters to vote no on Proposition 22.
As gig workers, we are finding it extremely difficult to project our voices over the sea of misinformation and propaganda Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, and Postmates have created around California’s Proposition 22. Five of the richest gig companies have spent nearly $200 million to persuade the electorate to allow them to not only exempt us from employment rights and protections, but also literally to write their own labor laws in their place wherein they act as the proverbial judge, jury, and executioner for each gig worker. Proposition 22 is a dangerous and deceitful proposition both for gig workers and, more broadly, for our democracy and the rights and protections of all working people.
As you have undoubtedly seen, corporate propaganda in favor of Proposition 22 is everywhere. Every time you turn on your television or open your computer you’re bombarded with messaging imploring you to vote yes on Proposition 22. You see the smiling faces of gig workers proclaiming that Proposition 22 protects their flexibility and their right to remain independent, that it establishes earnings standards that are 120% of the local minimum wage, provides health care subsidies to workers, and, perhaps most egregiously of all, that Proposition 22 is actually good for gig workers and we “overwhelmingly” support it.
On our end, gig workers have been bombarded daily — and in some cases hourly or more — with emails, notifications, and in-app messaging giving us misinformation about Proposition 22 and its impact on our purported independence and our already deceptively limited flexibility. Even more sinister, however, is that the messaging from the gig companies to their workers implies — if not asserts — that if we don’t vote yes on Proposition 22 we will lose our jobs altogether. The Yes on Proposition 22 campaign is relentless in its repetitiveness and ruthless in its sheer invasiveness. Every time we open our apps to work, we encounter propaganda persuading us not only to vote in our employers’ best interests but to deliver their messaging to customers against our self-interests. Shockingly, Instacart recently instructed us to affix a “Yes on Proposition 22” sticker to our deliveries, DoorDash sent out several million “Yes on Proposition 22” bags to restaurants to package orders that we have to deliver, and Uber boldly attached a “Yes on Proposition 22” graphic to driver’s profile pictures. All of these actions are designed to inform customers that the gig workers are co-signing onto the corporate messaging and their mission. These outright manipulations of our political speech have occurred without the consent of the very workers Proposition 22 aims to further marginalize.
Gig companies have spent an unprecedented sum sponsoring Proposition 22. By now, we have all heard the corporate talking points about how Proposition 22 maintains the status quo of the structure of gig work as we know it while establishing new standards for workers. The reality for workers is far more sinister, Proposition 22 strips us of hard-won rights and protections in our workplace that are critical to us as essential workers, especially during a global pandemic. Under Proposition 22 essential gig workers face losing our right to minimum wage, overtime, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, paid family leave, and employer-sponsored health insurance, to name but a few. Of course, all of this is occurring when world events have conclusively demonstrated how important it is to provide workers with benefits.
During the pandemic, gig workers became a lifeline for families sheltering-in-place. Everyday gig workers continued showing up, shopping, and delivering your groceries, delivering restaurant meals, keeping families fed and restaurants afloat, transporting people to their doctor’s appointments and pharmacies. As frontline workers, we are well aware of how much our labor matters to consumers; we are also aware most consumers only want what is best for us. That is why we emphatically implore you to vote no on Proposition 22.
Those promises of freedom and flexibility? Illusions. Products of the gig companies’ sleight of hand. As a gig worker, we do not truly run our own business and we certainly aren’t our own boss. As app-based and app-bossed workers, we are at the mercy of algorithms, we have no power to set our own prices and are expressly prohibited from interacting with or soliciting clients outside of our in-app work. Proposition 22 creates a new classification of workers that falls categorically short of employment, where gig corporations expand upon their tight control over their workforce while shielding themselves from all the costs, risks, and liabilities of properly classified employment. Proposition 22 establishes that all the costs, risks, and liabilities of multi-billion dollar corporations would be passed onto individual workers who can afford it the least. A study by UC Berkeley’s Labor Center concludes that under Proposition 22, gig workers would net an average of $5.64/hour, an astonishing 57% less than California’s statewide minimum wage. Even more alarmingly, Proposition 22 establishes an impossible 7/8ths legislative majority to amend enshrining our second class status as workers.
Proposition 22 serves to tighten the grip of the gig companies on their workers while simultaneously stripping workers of even the most basic legal protections, we would essentially be subject to whatever hand gig companies decide to deal us. Under Proposition 22, gig workers would be entirely subject to the whims of the same unlawful gig companies that have been caught systematically cheating us by, among other things, pocketing our tips, deceiving customers about fees and costs, paying us via formulas derived from cryptic black-box algorithms, and have gutted our wages year after year. With history as our guide, we know gig companies do not deserve the trust of gig workers. They certainly do not deserve yours. We implore you to see beyond the smoke and mirrors and vote no on Proposition 22.
Gig Workers Collective