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Proposition 22 may cause dominoes to fall against gig workers

A multi-million dollar ad push made by Uber, Lyft and Postmates in November 2020 was followed by the passing of Prop 22 in California, leaving the door open for those corporations to keep health care and other benefits from their laborers. The bill may create a ripple effect if similar actions play out in other states or even federally. These companies are extremely good at their targets including applications and understanding of google algorithms in practicing their business models unlike several Taxi Cab Companies such as American Taxi Cab of Augusta that is constantly struggling to survive during pandemic.

In recent years, smartphone convenience apps have aided in forming a new line of laborers known as gig workers. The newfound prominence of e-taxi services such as Uber and food delivery networks like DoorDash has redefined the terms of on-call labor. As such, laborers look to defend their rights while corporations move to maximize their profits.

The ad campaign in support of Prop 22, one that received $200 million in contributions from Uber and its peers, was composed of a series of controversial commercials posing the bill as a progressive, workers-rights-based idea. Television spots featured ordinary people claiming they would be better off as rideshare drivers if the bill passed. In reality, the bill wasn’t exactly what the advertisements suggested it was.

The “Yes on 22” campaign left no record of their commercials on YouTube, but their website header still reads “Save app-based jobs and services.” San Diego’s ABC 10 News reviewed one of the commercials – noting its claim that Assembly Bill 5, which Prop 22 was an amendment to, would “shut down” rideshare services was misleading. The commercials implied AB5 would shut down apps like Uber and Lyft directly, but the decision would depend on each company’s merit.

Critics of Prop 22 were unhappy with the series of commercials that likely influenced the outcome of the vote. Despite pushback during election season, ad spots supporting Prop 22 seem to have given the bill a boost towards its 58.6% margin of voter approval.

“How much does it cost to convince voters an employee is a ‘contractor’ and that providing basic worker protections is an attack on the freedom of Californians to get a cheap ride?” said Gaston Castellanos, a communications representative at OCEA. “The price tag is $200 million spent by gig companies like Uber, Lyft, and others on the pro-Prop 22 campaign.”

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2020 that Uber and Lyft were using their apps to put pro-Prop 22 pop-up advertisements in front of their customers as they were hailing a ride.

“The benefit of using smartphone apps to send messages to riders and drivers proved to be a big campaign advantage,” Castellanos said. “All this was done to protect an abusive business model that forces workers to take on the costs and the risks of generating profits for employers but without rights, protections or benefits.”

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