California on Tuesday approved “Proposition 22”, formulated by Uber and other companies to preserve their model of platforms with independent drivers, in a referendum decisive for the “gig economy” (economy per task), followed in the United States and around the world.
The voters of this American state voted “yes” to 58%, while 70% of the ballots had been counted at 5:00 am Wednesday, according to the American press, which uses the figures of the Associated Press agency.
Uber and Lyft, its American competitor, refuse to apply state law, which came into force in January, which requires them to hire their tens of thousands of drivers, and therefore to grant them social benefits (health insurance and unemployment, paid vacation, overtime, etc.).
Instead, the two leaders of chauffeur-driven car reservation platforms (VTC) held a referendum on a compromise.
“Proposition 22” provides that the tens of thousands of Californian drivers will remain independent but also that they will receive compensation: a guaranteed minimum income, a contribution to health insurance and other insurance, depending on the number of hours worked. per week.
“The future of self-employment is brighter now, thanks to the many drivers like you who have spoken out, and voters across the state have listened,” Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a letter. addressed to drivers.
He tells them that his company will be getting back to them in the coming weeks to explain “what to expect” and “how to make the most of these new advantages”.
The two San Francisco-based groups, and their Postmates allies DoorDash and Instacart, spent more than $ 200 million on their campaign, compared with less than $ 20 million on the opponents’ side, making it one of the most popular referendums. dear ones in the history of the state.
He was closely followed to see if California would succeed in taming the “gig economy”.
The advent of VTCs has been accompanied by political and social tensions around the world, especially with the taxi industry. In California, many elected Democrats and unions accuse Uber and its counterparts of trying to evade labor laws and harming their drivers.
“We are devastated by this unfair result,” responded Erica Mighetto, Uber driver for four years. “Although I shouldn’t be surprised that billionaire firms can buy ways to evade the law.”
She had been campaigning for weeks for the ‘no’: “I think most people wanted to vote for us. But they saw all these ads to convince them that we want to stay independent. While in reality, we have never been independent, ”she laments.
The drivers were divided between those who would want benefits like any other employee, arguing that the terms of the relationship with Uber are determined by the company anyway, and the followers of flexibility above all, who want to be able to decide. of their schedules.
Following in court
“Drivers want and need to be independent,” Jan Krueger, a retired Lyft driver, cited by the “yes” campaign in a statement. “Proposition 22 should serve as a model for other states and the federal government.”
Winning the referendum does not necessarily mean that the matter is settled.
The unions “have chosen to keep their funds for the next step: to question the constitutionality of the measure,” observed David McCuan, professor of political science at Sonoma University at the end of October.
Uber and Lyft are already engaged in a legal standoff with California, the most populous and wealthiest US state.
During a hearing in October, Uber’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, argued that the company was “not a recruiting entity” or “a transport company” but a “multidimensional platform that allows in contact with passengers and drivers. ”
Matthew Goldberg, who defends the state of California and the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, retorted that the drivers were wronged because they currently cannot claim many social protections, such as the minimum wage, reimbursement of professional expenses or family leave.