A California Superior Court judge found Proposition 22 unconstitutional in a Friday ruling. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch wrote that Prop. 22 violates the Constitution of California because it, among other things, "limits the power of a future legislature to define app-based drivers as workers subject to workers' compensation law."
The Service Employees International Union, the SEIU California State Council and a group of app-based drivers sued the state over Prop. 22 in January. The plaintiffs originally filed the suit in California's Supreme Court, which rejected a direct review, sending it back to a lower court before it can proceed.
Prop. 22, which passed in 2020 with 59% of the vote after major backing from Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, allowed transportation and delivery companies to classify their drivers as contractors, exempting them from having to provide them with employee benefits like health care, overtime pay and sick leave.
The lawsuit argued that Prop. 22 violates the state constituion, which gives the Legislature the power to "create and enforce a complete system of workers' compensation." Because Prop. 22 exempts workers who were once classified as employees from workers' comp, the law infringes upon the Legislature's power to create such a system, Roesch ruled Friday.
Additionally, Roesch ruled that Prop. 22 is unconstitutional because a section of it deals with collective bargaining rights, which is "utterly unrelated to (the law's) common purpose." Initiative statutes in California should only cover a single subject, Roesch wrote.
"A prohibition on legislation authorizing collective bargaining by app-based drivers does not promote the right to work as an independent contractor, nor does it protect work flexibility, nor does it provide minimum workplace safety and pay standards for those workers," Roesch wrote. "It appears only to protect the economic interests of the network companies in having a divided, un-unionized workforce, which is not a stated goal of the legislation."
The advocacy group Gig Workers Rising called Prop. 22 an "illegal corporate power grab" after the ruling. "Prop. 22 is not just harmful for gig workers — it is also dangerous for our democracy," Gig Workers Rising lead organizer Shona Clarkson said in a statement. "This fight is not over until all gig workers receive the living wages, benefits and voice on the job they have earned."
The Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Coalition said it would file an appeal that would keep Prop. 22 in effect until the end of the appeal process. "We believe the judge made a serious error by ignoring a century's worth of case law requiring the courts to guard the voters' right of initiative," PADS spokesman Geoff Vetter said in a statement. "This outrageous decision is an affront to the overwhelming majority of California voters who passed Prop. 22."