Northern California Record

Monday, January 20, 2020

Proposed Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act ballot measure seeks to counter AB 5


By Chris Adams | Nov 12, 2019

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SACRAMENTO – A proposed ballot measure defining the classification of app-based drivers as independent contractors has been gaining traction.

The Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act – which thousands of gig-economy drivers have signed – counteracts the Assembly Bill 5 legislation that is slated to go into effect in January.

AB 5 essentially changes the status of thousands of California workers from independent contractors to employees through a challenging ABC Test that was codified into law from a California Supreme Court decision designated as the Dynamex standard.

The ballot measure campaign, which is sponsored by ride-hailing providers Uber and Lyft as well as prepared-food delivery service DoorDash, would preserve the right for these drivers to work as independent contractors along with wage and benefit guarantees.

“Importantly, our ballot measure will not ask voters to exempt us from AB5…Instead, we will ask voters to support the pro-driver policies we have advocated for: giving drivers access to benefits and an earnings floor and retaining the flexible access to on-demand work they enjoy today,” said Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West in a September call with media that was transcribed and posted on the Uber website.

The key to an effective campaign for the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act seems financial.

Former California state representative Bob Huff said the way to overturn AB 5, which he believes is overreaching, is through a substantial amount of funding.

“If you have enough money, you can qualify anything,” he said in an interview.

Uber and Lyft have contributed $60 million combined to fund the ballot initiative campaign and are willing to invest more to ensure a successful outcome.

“We are hiring the best campaign team available, and we are working to expand the coalition to include other businesses who face uncertainty in the wake of AB 5,” West said.

People can relate to the ride-hailing segment of the gig economy because most people in urban areas have been a consumer of this type of service, Huff said.

“To the degree that they could draw the parameters to include more people…and define it in a way that AB 5 disrupts the way of business that people have come to appreciate in California I think…the more opportunity they’d have to overturn it,” he said.

He further explained that if the owner-operator or mom-and-pop truck drivers get on board with the ballot measure, it would be a significant gain.

“They don’t have a lot of money but there’s enough of them that they could help fight the battle and put a face on it as well so it’s not just some tech startup that’s pushing for it, it’s the backbone of our economy,” Huff said.

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