The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

California Prop 22:
Big Tech Companies Buy an Election

Nov 9, 2020

It is hardly a surprise that voters in the state of California passed Proposition 22, despite the fact that it is virulently anti-union and anti-worker. Uber, Lyft and the delivery service DoorDash spent a record 218 million dollars on the ballot measure, more than 10 times as much as the unions that opposed it, to churn out a blizzard of advertisements.

In other words, these big, rich companies used all that money, all those resources, to buy the election, to fool and trick voters into agreeing to let a bunch of billionaires make an even bigger fortune by classifying the drivers as “independent contractors,” rather than employees. That’s the excuse these companies have used so they don’t provide hundreds of thousands of drivers even the minimum protections that ordinary employees get, including a minimum wage, health benefits, sick pay, workers compensation, Social Security, and unemployment insurance benefits.

The day after Prop 22 passed, big speculators in the stock market celebrated by bidding up the price of Uber’s shares by 9% and Lyft’s shares by 20%, making the shareholders of these two companies 10 billion dollars richer in one day. Wall Street financiers were already betting on Uber and other big companies using what they did in California in order to get federal legislation imposing similar conditions for millions of drivers in other states.

For the last five years, union officials had told workers to sit back and let labor’s friends in the state capital take care of things. These so-called “friends” are the Democratic apparatus that runs virtually all government in California. But for five years, Uber, Lyft and other high tech companies were able to defy government officials in all three branches of the state government. State legislators passed laws to stop it, labor department regulators issued regulations against it. And courts issued rulings demanding that these companies classify and pay their drivers as employees.

Result? The companies thumbed their noses at these restraints, setting the stage for Uber and Lyft to ram through Prop 22.

No, workers cannot count on government officials—no matter how much they claim to be pro-labor and pro-union, like they pretend to be in California. The workers’ power is in our great numbers and our essential role at the center of the economy.