LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 16: A protestor displays a sign as Uber and Lyft drivers with Rideshare Drivers United and the
 Transport Workers Union of America prepare to conduct a ‘caravan protest’ outside the California Labor Commissioner’s office amidst the coronavirus pandemic on April 16, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. The drivers called for California to enforce the AB 5 law so that they may qualify for unemployment insurance as the spread of COVID-19 continues. Drivers also called for receiving back wages they say they are owed. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

At the core of Prop. 22’s inception is a 2019 California labor regulation, AB5, which prolonged worker classification to gig staff. Uber and Lyft claimed the regulation would negatively impression the way in which they conduct enterprise, and went so far as threatening to close down their providers in California when a court docket in August ordered them to adjust to AB5. Instead, they poured hundreds of thousands of {dollars} right into a poll initiative marketing campaign to purchase themselves a regulation, Murphy stated. 

Prop. 22 handed with some 58% of voter assist on Election Day, largely due to a saturation of deceptive advertisements about what the regulation would obtain, Murphy stated. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates spent over $200 million on the Yes on 22 marketing campaign—the most costly poll measure effort within the historical past of California. The regulation was additionally designed in order that it will be very troublesome to amend or overturn sooner or later, with adjustments requiring a 7/8 supermajority within the California legislature.

After the election, the Yes on 22 marketing campaign celebrated its win, saying Prop. 22 “represents the future of work in an increasingly technologically-driven economy,” based on a press launch. In an emailed assertion, a Lyft spokesperson informed Prism, “In survey after survey, the overwhelming majority of drivers stated they needed to stay impartial contractors. California voters heard them, stood with them, and delivered them new advantages, together with a healthcare subsidy and minimal earnings assure, by passing Prop 22.”

As far as wages, Prop. 22 guarantees staff 120% of the minimal wage, calculated based mostly on the time drivers spend on a visit or en path to a visit. A examine funded by the Yes on Prop 22 marketing campaign alleged drivers would make between $25-$27 per hour below the proposition. However, a examine by the University of California, Berkeley reported drivers’ wages may very well be as little as $5.64 an hour—far under California’s minimal wage, which is at the moment $12 or $13 an hour relying on employer measurement, and rising to $15 by 2023.

“[In this year’s election], we were up for a fight up and down the ballot for racial and economic justice. Uber and Lyft were included,” Murphy stated. “Knowing that racial justice is economic justice, it was vitally important that we look at Prop. 22 from that context.” Black and brown staff are disproportionately impacted by Prop. 22 as practically 80% of drivers in San Francisco alone are individuals of coloration, and greater than half are immigrants.

“At the onset of COVID-19, gig workers like myself were faced with the devil’s choice: to continue working despite a highly contagious disease, or risk losing the roof over our heads and the ability to pay bills,” Murphy stated. “Black and brown gig workers, low-wage workers … have been at the forefront of this pandemic. We have been the hardest hit economically, and the most likely to continue to die from this virus.”

Murphy stated she’s angered by the way in which Lyft and Uber co-opted the picture of the Black Lives Matter motion in advertisements this yr, whereas concurrently advocating for a regulation like Prop. 22, which largely impacts the businesses’ majority Black and brown staff. “[Lyft] ran ads quoting Maya Angelou’s ‘Lift Up Your Eyes,’ and [Uber ran] billboards that stated that, ‘If you tolerate racism, delete Uber.’ What they did was capitalize on the Black Lives Matter movement,” Murphy stated.

Like Murphy, Carlos Ramos stated working for Lyft initially made sense as a result of he wanted a fast solution to begin making revenue whereas sustaining a versatile schedule. “But there is not a lot of job security,” stated Ramos, who’s based mostly in Bakersfield and can also be an organizer with Gig Workers Rising.

Then there’s the difficulty of medical health insurance. Under Prop. 22, drivers who work at the least 15 hours every week are pledged a healthcare stipend they may use to buy an insurance coverage plan from Covered California, which is the state’s medical health insurance market. But identical to with wages, drivers solely qualify for stated contribution based mostly on their lively time on rides, not the whole time they’re logged on to the app. It’s vital to notice {that a} healthcare stipend isn’t the identical as medical health insurance protection supplied by an employer.

Ramos has labored for Lyft since 2017 and though he has entry to medical health insurance by way of Veterans Affairs resulting from his army service, he acknowledges not all drivers have that possibility. Especially throughout a pandemic, Ramos stated, it’s “deplorable” {that a} ride-sharing firm would advocate in opposition to offering drivers insurance coverage.  

“They’ve encouraged drivers to keep driving, to be labeled essential workers, and in the same breath said that they don’t deserve health insurance,” he stated. “We’re all still driving.”

Ramos stated Lyft has been “hands off” in its response to the pandemic and the security of drivers. It’s been fellow gig staff who’ve supplied one another with private protecting gear, he stated. Lyft’s web site stated the corporate has supplied face masks and cleansing provides to drivers throughout the nation. In response to Ramos’s allegations, a Lyft spokesperson pointed to their well being and security tips for drivers, which incorporates hyperlinks to COVID-19 security tutorials.

The firm has additionally been closely criticized for suggesting that drivers may buy extra PPE from the corporate’s retailer.

“You have the choice of starving today or maybe dying tomorrow. This is the choice essential workers are facing today,” Ramos stated.

He fears for what’s to return because the nation reels from the devastation introduced by the pandemic and the following financial disaster. “Once this is all over, what are we gonna have then? A huge workforce, all scrambling for work at the same time, and who’s gonna be there with their hands wide open? These gig companies with their new, shinny Prop. 22 law, saying they don’t have to give you any benefits and that they can do whatever they want to make as much money as they can,” he stated. “We’re gonna have very desperate people trying to get any job because they need to put food on the table, and we’re gonna have companies more than willing to take advantage of them. This is the time when our labor laws should have been strengthened, not weakened. These companies are allowed to buy their own laws … and everyone else suffers.”

Ramos additionally warns of Lyft and Uber advocating for legal guidelines like Prop. 22 in different states and even on the federal stage. His issues are well-founded: In an interview with The Washington Post, Anthony Foxx, Lyft’s chief coverage officer, stated Prop. 22 had “created a structure for us to discuss with leaders in other states and Washington,” including that Prop. 22 may very well be replicated and “scaled.”

“This needs to be a wakeup call for America. The nature of work is at stake here. We have to think about it for a second. What do we want work to look like in the future? Do we want a job that’s safe and secure?” Ramos stated. “Just like democracy, we cannot rest. We cannot assume that labor laws will always be there.”

One factor is definite for Murphy, Ramos, and different gig staff: The struggle isn’t over. “Regardless of what your working situation is, everyone should have dignity and worthiness … we will continue to organize,” Murphy stated. “This is a setback but not a loss. I’m confident … when we get together, we will win.”

María Inés Taracena is a contributing author protecting staff’ rights at Prism. Originally from Guatemala, she’s at the moment a information producer at Democracy Now! in New York City specializing in Central America and asylum seekers, amongst different tales.

Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit information outlet that facilities the individuals, locations and points at the moment underreported by our nationwide media. Through our authentic reporting, evaluation, and commentary, we problem dominant, poisonous narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to construct a full and correct report of what’s occurring in our democracy. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.