A California appeals court on March 13, 2023 affirmed that Proposition 22 is mostly constitutional, upholding the ballot initiative that allows Uber, Lyft, and other app-based platforms in California to classify their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. 

It’s a big win for worker freedom and for the more than 80% of rideshare and app-based delivery drivers in California who want to remain independent contractors.  

Background: In November 2020, almost 60% of California voters approved Prop. 22 that exempts gig drivers from the restrictions of Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), a new labor law passed in 2020 that severely restricts independent contracting in California. In 2021, a Superior Court judge in Alameda County ruled Prop. 22 unconstitutional, asserting the measure interferes with the legislature’s power to oversee workers’ compensation laws.

In an ironic twist, California Attorney General Rob Bonta argued in favor of Prop. 22 to the Court of Appeals even though he voted for AB5 when he was an assemblyman in the California state legislature and was personally opposed to Prop. 22. The state correctly asserted that the will of the voters should prevail, and the Court of Appeals agreed.

Former assemblywoman and author of AB5 cried foul about Monday’s ruling, claiming the “system is broken” and that the appeals court “chose to stand with powerful corporations over working people, allowing companies to buy their way out of our state’s labor laws.” 

Gonzalez, who now heads the California Labor Federation representing 1,200 unions in the state, has no such concerns about the millions of independent contractors and small businesses adversely affected by her disastrous law. From transcribers and translators to sign-language interpreters, videographers, wedding planners, regional theaters, pharmacists, the independent film industry, and more, AB5 has wielded a wrecking ball to the independent workforce in California, particularly impacting female entrepreneurs who have been disproportionately harmed by the law.  

Furthermore, the $204 million spent by Uber and Lyft on Prop. 22 is mere pittance compared to the $40 billion in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims paid to criminals, convicts, and cartels by the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD) during the pandemic. The person in charge of California’s EDD fiasco was none other than Julie Su, who has just been nominated by President Biden to head the U.S. Department of Labor. Should her nomination be confirmed, she will no doubt bring California’s ruthless attacks on independent professionals to the entire nation, as she was behind the crafting of AB5 during her tenure with California’s labor department. 

Although Prop. 22 puts a win in the column for protecting worker freedom, it only applies to app-based rideshare and delivery drivers, not the entire independent workforce. Therefore, the fight against AB5 must continue on behalf of all occupations, professions, and sectors harmed by this destructive law. Every exemption, whether obtained via legislation, court rulings, or the voters, pokes a hole in AB5 and further proves how arbitrary and unconstitutional this law is. 

Karen Anderson is the founder of Freelancers Against AB5.