IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

California court deals major blow to Uber drivers, delivery workers

Allowing Proposition 22 to stand means many drivers and delivery people won't get benefits they deserve.


An appeals court ruling in California just dealt a significant blow to labor advocates who’ve sought more rights and protections for so-called gig workers.

Surely, you’ve relied on these workers' services at some point: Uber and Lyft drivers, DoorDash delivery people, some website coders and programmers. Maybe you've worked in the gig economy yourself. After all, nearly 16% of Americans have earned money through an online gig platform, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey.

Well, these workers’ corporate overlords just got a bit more powerful. 

Back in 2020, and to the delight of tech giants like Uber and Lyft, a majority of California voters backed a ballot measure, known as Proposition 22, that allows companies to classify these app-based workers as “independent contractors” rather than employees. While these companies often take a hefty cut of the profits workers make from each transaction, they’re often not responsible for things like health care benefits, maternity leave and even some costs needed for workers to complete their jobs — like car repairs, for example. 

In 2021, a California judge ruled the law was unconstitutional and tossed it out entirely. But California’s 1st District Court of Appeal overturned that ruling on Monday, finding the bulk of the law constitutional except for portions related to the California Legislature's authority on the matter.

The Service Employees International Union is expected to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court, allowing some of these workers to hold out hope in the Prop. 22 battle.

Still, gig industry groups didn't waste time celebrating. A coalition that includes several deep-pocketed ride-share and delivery apps known as Protect App-Based Drivers and Services applauded “a historic victory for the nearly 1.4 million drivers who rely on the independence and flexibility of app-based work to earn income.” 

But that “flexibility” — often, the mere ability for workers to create their own schedules — tends to be viewed by Big Tech companies as an adequate replacement for benefits and worker protections. Many gig workers would argue it's not.

That’s why, back in 2021, I interviewed Cherri Murphy, a Lyft driver and member of the advocacy group Gig Workers Rising. She broke down the burden of working at the whim of app-based companies like Lyft without protections.

Here’s a clip of our interview:

Consider watching "The Gig Is Up," a documentary about worker neglect and mistreatment within gig industries. And keep people like Cherri Murphy in mind as you make your ride-share and delivery requests. We shouldn’t forget the workers steamrolled in Big Tech companies’ quest to amass power and influence.

(FYI: Wall Street was elated about the Prop. 22 news: Uber and Lyft shares jumped after Monday's ruling was announced.)