Independence of Uber drivers deemed unconstitutional

Contractual or employees? The status of drivers of apps like Uber hangs in the balance again in California, where a judge has ruled unconstitutional and “Inapplicable”, Friday August 20, a referendum of November 2020 confirming their independence.

The American leaders in the reservation of cars with drivers, Uber and Lyft, had submitted to a vote a law for the independence of drivers in California, while this American state had adopted in 2019 a text which required them to requalify them as employees .

The two companies and other platforms won the game: voters voted 58.6% in favor of the “Proposition 22”, which devoted paid work to the task but gave drivers some social benefits.

This proposal is unconstitutional because it “Limits the power of the assembly in the future to define the operators of mobile applications as workers recognized by the law on workers’ compensation”Alameda court judge Frank Roesh said, according to the newspaper Sacramento Bee. The result of the referendum is therefore “Inapplicable”.

Uber spent $ 200 million to promote the ” Yes “

“We are going to appeal and we think we are going to win”, reacted a spokesperson for Uber. “This decision ignores the will of the majority of Californian voters and makes no sense either in terms of logic or under the law. (…) The California attorney firmly defended the constitutionality of Proposition 22. ”

For Erica Mighetto, a driver who campaigned for employee status, this decision is “Triumph for the future of work via apps”. “I’m so glad the courts see Proposition 22 as an attempt to destroy labor rights, she told AFP. I believe that now the drivers have a real chance to fight for sufficient income to live and for a fair working environment. “

Along with its competitor Lyft and delivery services, Uber has spent more than $ 200 million to promote the ” Yes “ to Proposition 22. Reclassifying drivers as employees would mean granting them certain rights and social benefits, such as unemployment benefits or possible collective bargaining.

A year ago, three months before the vote, the two Californian companies threatened to completely cut off their service in the state, which would have put tens of thousands of people out of work.

“So many efforts to have the obvious recognized”

In February, the California Supreme Court refused to accept the complaint of Uber drivers who wanted to force the state to reject the law approved by referendum. They hoped to argue that Proposition 22 violated the California Constitution by limiting the ability of its elected officials to facilitate the organization of workers among themselves and by excluding drivers from the benefits to which they should be entitled as employees.

“It’s disturbing that it took so much effort to legally recognize the obvious”, indignant Friday Mae Cee, who drives part-time for Uber and activates within the RDU (Rideshare Drivers United), an association of drivers.

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“I am delighted by this decision but also worried about what will happen now”, commented Nathan, a part-time driver from San Diego. “I was one of those fooled by the promises of Proposition 22, with the ability to set your own prices, know the details of a ride in advance and Uber’s commission limited to 25%. . All that changed in the next three months. “

Some drivers prefer flexibility

But the drivers are divided between those who want to be employees and those who prefer to keep the current flexibility. Jim Pyatt, a driver from northern California, says the judge’s ruling is a ” shame “.

“They want to take drivers away from their ability to work independently and eliminate the new historic benefits offered by Proposition 22, including guaranteed income, health insurance and more.”, he argued, quoted in a statement by the organization that campaigned for the ” Yes “.

Uber embodies the widely adopted, but also widely criticized, per-task economy in many major cities around the world. However, the group has never succeeded in proving the viability of its model, since it has never yet made a profit.


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