California Strikes Down California’s “Gig Worker” Proposition 22

An Alameda County Superior Court judge on Friday struck down Proposition 22, the 2020 voter-approved initiative that allows ride-hailing companies to classify their drivers as independent contractors.

In a 12-page ruling, Judge Frank Roesch wrote that a provision of the tech industry-backed law illegally infringes on the Legislature’s constitutional authority to decide which workers must be covered by the state’s workers’ compensation system.

“In short, if the People wish to use their initiative power to restrict or qualify a ‘plenary’ and ‘unlimited’ power granted to the Legislature, they must first do so by initiative constitutional amendment, not by initiative statute,” Roesch wrote.

Drafters of Proposition 22 did not make that section severable, so the entire voter-approved measure must be tossed, the judge continued.

The decision is a major victory for organized labor groups, which waged a losing campaign against Proposition 22 and have challenged its contents since its passage. The plaintiffs tried to take their case directly to the California Supreme Court in January but were rebuffed by the justices the next month. The high court said the case could be re-filed “in an appropriate court.”

The plaintiffs, Service Employees International Union and several ride-hailing drivers, were represented by Altshuler Berzon and Olson Remcho.

“Prop 22 was a complete and total Constitutional overreach by billionaire venture capitalists & irresponsible corporations,” tweeted Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who authored the original worker classification legislation that Proposition 22 amended. “The court has restored my faith in democracy by finding the same.”

Proposition 22 backers said they will appeal Roesch’s ruling.

“We believe the judge made a serious error by ignoring a century’s worth of case law requiring the courts to guard the voters’ right of initiative,” Geoff Vetter, spokesperson for the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Coalition, said in a prepared statement. “This outrageous decision is an affront to the overwhelming majority of California voters who passed Prop 22.”

Any appeal would go to the First District Court of Appeal, where a three-justice panel, just weeks before the November 2020 election, affirmed a trial court ruling that found Uber and Lyft had misclassified their drivers. That suit was brought by the state of California and raised separate legal issues from those addressed by Roesch’s ruling.


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