New lawsuit targets California ride-hail labor law

<p>OAKLAND, Calif. &mdash; Ride-hail drivers and a union filed a lawsuit Thursday against Proposition 22 — a ballot measure that exempted Uber and other companies from California’s gig economy law — after the state Supreme Court threw out their case.</p>
<p>The suit filed in Alameda County Superior Court contends the measure that passed in November violates California’s Constitution. The proposition shields app-based ride-hailing and delivery companies from a new labor law that required such services to treat drivers as employees and not independent contractors, who don’t have to receive benefits such as paid sick leave or unemployment insurance.</p>
<p>Last week, the state’s highest court declined to hear the case but left open the possibility of a lower court challenge. </p>
<p>The new suit is essentially the same as the Supreme Court suit. The Service Employees International Union, three drivers and a passenger contend that Proposition 22 is unconstitutional because it removes the state Legislature’s ability to grant workers the right to organize and give access to the state workers’ compensation program.</p>
<p>“We know that in a democracy, corporations shouldn’t get the final say in determining our laws,” said Saori Okawa, a plaintiff in the suit who has worked for companies including Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart.</p>
<p>“The gig companies are trying to break our democracy just to increase their own bottom lines," she said in a statement included in a union news release.</p>
<p>However, a group of drivers who backed Proposition 22 called the suit meritless.</p>
<p>“Special interests have consistently refused to accept the overwhelming desire of drivers to remain independent since it doesn’t fit their political agenda," Lyft driver Jimmy Strano said in a statement, adding that he was confident the court would reject the suit. </p>
<p>Proposition 22 passed in November with 58% support. It was the most expensive ballot measure in state history with Uber, Lyft and other services putting $200 million behind the effort to undo a law that had been aimed squarely at them by labor-friendly Democrats. Uber and Lyft threatened to leave the state if voters rejected the measure.</p>
<p>Unions, who joined drivers in the lawsuit, spent about $20 million to challenge the proposition.</p>
<p>Before the ballot measure passed, a lower court already had issued a preliminary injunction requiring Uber and Lyft to treat drivers as employees instead of freelancers, and an appeals court upheld that decision in October. </p>
<p>On Wednesday, The California Supreme Court declined to review the case but the issue is moot because of Proposition 22.</p>