California Judge Renders Gig Worker Law Unenforceable

A judge ruled against California's Proposition 22, which let ride-hailing and delivery businesses classify workers as independent contractors and discouraged unionization efforts.

Read Time: 2 minutes

August 24, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Uber Car

mikedotta / Shutterstock

Margot Roosevelt and Suhauna Hussain report on a decision that reopens the debate on the gig economy in California and could have lasting repercussions as ride-hailing companies seek to fight regulation in other states. Last Friday, "a state Superior Court judge invalidated a 2020 ballot proposition that allowed Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and other app-based businesses to classify their workers as independent contractors." 

Historically, "California courts are often hesitant to overturn ballot measures because the move can be seen as challenging the will of the people." But "[i]n a lawsuit brought by the Service Employees International Union and several drivers, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled that Proposition 22 is unconstitutional and unenforceable" because it "infringes on the power of the Legislature explicitly granted by the state Constitution to regulate compensation for workers’ injuries." According to Judge Roesch, "[b]y including language aimed at preventing drivers from unionizing, the ballot measure also violates a constitutional provision that requires laws and initiatives to be limited to a single subject." Because "a ballot initiative cannot be amended after it is passed by voters, any unconstitutional provision renders it unenforceable."

"Uber and other gig economy companies spent more than $220 million last year in the nation’s costliest-ever ballot initiative campaign to exempt their drivers from a 2019 law, AB 5, requiring gig workers across many industries to be classified as employees with benefits such as minimum wage, overtime and workers’ compensation in case of injury." Uber plans to appeal the decision.

Friday, August 20, 2021 in Los Angeles Times

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

A tent covered in blue and black tarps sits on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk with the white ziggurat-topped L.A. City Hall looming in the background

L.A. County Towns Clash Over Homelessness Policies

Local governments often come to different conclusions about how to address homelessness within their respective borders, but varying approaches only exacerbate the problem.

3 hours ago - Shelterforce Magazine

Rendering of mixed-use development with parks and stormwater retention on former Houston landfill site

A Mixed-Use Vision for Houston Landfill Site

A local nonprofit is urging the city to consider adding mixed-use development to the site, which city officials plan to turn into a stormwater detention facility.

4 hours ago - Urban Edge

Aerial view of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin at sunset

Milwaukee County Makes Substantial Progress on Homelessness

In 2022, the county’s point-in-time count of unhoused people reflected just 18 individuals, the lowest in the country.

5 hours ago - Urban Milwaukee