Uber, Lyft Unveil Ballot Initiative to Counter California Gig-Economy Law

www.wsj.com/articles/uber-lyft-unveil-ballot-initiative-to-counter-california-gig-economy-law-11572386291?mod=lead_feature_below_a_pos1

Updated Oct. 29, 2019 9:20 pm ET

Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc. and other ride-hailing and on-demand companies in California said Tuesday they submitted a ballot initiative that would alter a statewide law intending to reclassify contract workers as full-time employees.

The companies are funding the measure, called the Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act, aiming to get it on the November 2020 state ballot. The initiative would effectively exempt Uber, Lyft and similar on-demand companies from key provisions of what is known as the gig-economy law, while also adding guarantees to ride-hailing workers to appease the law’s defenders.

While lawmakers and supporters have said the gig-economy law, which was enacted in September and will go into effect in January, could raise wages and provide new benefits for workers, critics have said it will raise costs for companies and force them to introduce hourly schedules that would take away the flexibility many drivers want.

Uber, Lyft and food-delivery company DoorDash Inc., who promised to spend a combined $90 million on a ballot measure to counter the law, officially kick-started the process Tuesday by submitting the 17-page initiative to the state attorney general’s office for review.

Next, the coalition backed by the companies will have to gather at least 623,212 petition signatures from registered voters—equal to 5% of the votes cast for all candidates for governor in the last California gubernatorial election—before California Secretary of State Alex Padilla can qualify the initiative for the statewide ballot next year.

Brandon Castillo, a spokesman for the coalition, said the group plans to start collecting signatures in January. Ballot initiatives must be approved at least 131 days before an election, putting some time pressure on the group to get the support it needs.

California’s new worker-protection bill could require Uber and Lyft to treat drivers as employees, but not all workers welcome the changes. Photo/Video: Jake Nicol/The Wall Street Journal

The ballot measure includes several guarantees to ride-hailing and delivery drivers that coalition members say don’t currently exist, such as giving drivers 30 cents a mile driven to account for gas and other vehicle costs, health-care subsidies for drivers who work 15 hours or more a week and occupational-accident insurance coverage while on the job.

Mr. Castillo said the group doesn’t seek to rewrite the entire gig-economy law, known as Assembly Bill 5 or AB5, which also affects workers in other industries from trucking to janitorial services, and aims only to create statutes for ride-hailing and other on-demand drivers.

“This initiative is for the thousands of Californians who are accessing this type of flexible work to supplement income or for a way to support their families,” Mr. Castillo said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s also for customers who are accessing these services every day.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who wrote the gig-economy law, said the ballot initiative is disingenuous.

“There is nothing in either the State Supreme Court’s decision or AB5 that impacts flexibility for workers,” Ms. Gonzalez said Tuesday. “These billion-dollar corporations still refuse to offer their workers what every other employee in California is entitled to: earning the minimum wage for all hours worked, social security, normal reimbursements for their costs, overtime pay, and the right to organize.”

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