In a major victory for California app-based drivers, rideshare consumers and labor unions, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled on Friday that Proposition 22, which exempted companies like Uber, Lyft and Doordash from treating drivers as employees, was unconstitutional. The court decision is a game-changing development in the nationwide battle over ensuring that employees of gig companies are entitled to fundamental employment and collective bargaining rights.
According to Judge Roesch’s ruling, Proposition 22 unconstitutionally “limits the power of a future legislature to define app-based drivers as workers subject to workers’ compensation law.” He concludes his order by stating “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. It appears only to protect the economic interests of the network companies in having a divided, unionized workforce, which is not a stated goal of the legislation.”
“The judge’s ruling makes clear that Proposition 22 is a fundamentally flawed and self-serving initiative promoted by the gig companies to protect their own economic interests at the expense of gig workers and the public,” said Richard Rios of Olson Remcho, “This is an important win for our clients who have been fighting against an industry that poured more than $200 million into a campaign to convince voters to pass an unconstitutional measure into law.”
Led by senior litigators Robin Johansen and Deborah Caplan, with the assistance of Rios and associate attorney Benjamin Gevercer, Olson Remcho’s legal team, along with co-counsel from the Altschuler Berzon firm, pinpointed the various ways in which Proposition 22 is patently unconstitutional.
“Proposition 22 fails the constitutional test on multiple grounds,” said Robin Johansen. “including by limiting the power of the legislature to ensure that workers are protected by a system of workers’ compensation and a draconian requirement that would effectively prohibit app-based drivers from ever engaging in collective bargaining.”
Plaintiffs include rideshare drivers Hector Castellanos, Saori Okawa and Michael Robinson; Joseph Delgado, a user of app-based rideshare services; and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and SEIU California State Council.
Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California, said in a statement: “Today’s ruling by Judge Roesch striking down Proposition 22 couldn’t be clearer: The gig industry-funded ballot initiative was unconstitutional and is therefore unenforceable. They tried to boost their profits by undermining democracy and the state constitution. For two years, drivers have been saying that democracy cannot be bought. And today’s decision shows they were right.”
The order is available here: Castellanos Order 082021