When Gig Workers Collective members first started to organize in 2016, gig companies were considered to be exciting startups that were lauded for their low prices and ease of accessibility for their services. It was hard to get anyone to understand that this was all at the expense of the worker, and that these people were being exploited because labor laws hadn’t caught up with the pace of technology. We spent the past 4 years pushing back against the exploitation and helping people understand just how toxic this industry is. “If we pay the worker fairly then we can’t afford to stay in business” was an excuse that the companies somehow got away with.
As the years progressed we saw these companies steal our tips, lower our pay, deactivate us for seemingly no reason, and oversaturate markets — resulting in workers sitting in their cars for hours, unpaid, without a single order coming through. We knew things wouldn’t change until the law caught up with them. We knew that worker misclassification was the root of the problem. We were thrilled when AB5 passed — it was the first time lawmakers proactively attempted to fix things. It was no surprise that California said we were misclassified. We have always been treated as employees but without the proper pay or labor protections.
Gig companies originally planned to spend $110 million fighting against classifying their workers as proper employees. In the end, they spent over $205 million, making Proposition 22 the most expensive ballot measure in the history of the U.S. It was hard to turn a TV on without seeing a commercial pleading for you to vote yes. If you’re a California gig worker, you received Proposition 22 propaganda every time you logged into the app. If you were a customer, you were told that the company would possibly leave California unless you voted in their favor. Gig companies know that flexibility is the most attractive aspect of gig work, so their campaign focused around it and invented a threat. Of course, AB5 and being an employee would not actually affect flexibility, but they still scared gig workers with the thought of taking it away every chance they could.
For the past several months, we have been able to push back and debunk most of the propaganda. We never had a way to directly access every customer or worker. Instead we spent countless hours, days and months doing workshops, leadership-building and networking with workers, and helping them understand Prop 22.
Our organizing has always been untraditional since we aren’t classified as employees and don’t have the legal protections to organize or unionize, but we still found a way to build worker power and fight back. We’re disappointed in tonight’s outcome, especially because this campaign’s success is based on lies and fear-mongering. Companies shouldn’t be able to buy elections. But we’re still dedicated to our cause and ready to continue our fight. Gig work is real work, and gig workers deserve fair and transparent pay, along with proper labor protections. These companies are clearly afraid, otherwise they never would have needed to spend that $200 million — and it’s workers they are afraid of. It’s only a matter of time until the law catches up with them.
We have tremendous gratitude to the many principled allies, organizations, advocates and journalists who have helped elevate gig workers’ voices during this detrimental political campaign.
Love and solidarity forever,