State Supreme Court rejects challenge to Prop. 22

Lawsuit alleging measure violates California law could be re-filed in lower court

A lawsuit alleging Proposition 22 violates state law was rejected by the California Supreme Court, which declined on Wednesday to hear the case.

The 5-2 decision was another blow in efforts by labor unions to stop app-based gig companies from classifying their workers as independent contractors.

“We are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear our case, but make no mistake: we are not deterred in our fight to win a livable wage and basic rights,” said Hector Castellanos, a rideshare driver in California and one of the plaintiffs in the case.

Prop. 22 was passed in November with support from 59 percent of California voters, giving companies such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart the right to classify their workers as independent contractors rather than employees, and provide less comprehensive labor protections, as a result.

The victory came at a steep cost. These companies put up a collective total of more than $200 million to back the bill, arguing its passage would allow drivers to maintain autonomy over their schedules and ensure no costs were passed on to the consumers.

Opponents, largely backed by unions, said the measure allowed corporations to write their own laws, exploiting workers in order to improve their bottom lines.

Rideshare drivers and the Service Employees International Union sued the companies in January on the grounds that Prop. 22 amounts to constitutional overreach.

Plaintiffs alleged the measure makes it harder for the state legislature to exercise its authority to create and enforce a worker’s compensation program for gig economy workers; legislates more than one issue on a single ballot measure, which isn’t allowed by the California constitution; and hinders the right to self-govern with a rule that requires a seven-eighths supermajority for any changes to the legislation.

“I joined together with my fellow rideshare drivers to file an urgent challenge against Prop. 22 at the Supreme Court because we know that in a democracy, corporations shouldn’t get to write our laws,” Castellanos said. “Prop. 22 is an unconstitutional attack on the ability of the California legislature to pass any laws to protect gig workers like me, even in the middle of a deadly pandemic.”

Jim Pyatt, a Modesto-based driver speaking on behalf of the coalition that supported Prop. 22, issued a statement on Wednesday calling for opposition groups to accept the outcome of last year’s vote, calling the lawsuit “meritless.”

“We’re hopeful this will send a strong signal to special interests to stop trying to undermine the will of the voters who overwhelmingly stood with drivers to pass Proposition 22,” he said. “It’s time to respect the vast majority of California voters as well as the drivers most impacted by Prop. 22”

In its decision, the California Supreme Court said the suit could be refiled in a lower court, but the plaintiffs have not yet said if they plan to pursue that option.

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