Contractual or employees? The status of drivers of apps like Uber hangs in the balance again in California, where a judge ruled on Friday August 20 as unconstitutional and “Inapplicable” a November 2020 referendum confirming their “independence”, according to American media.
The American leaders in the reservation of cars with drivers, Uber and Lyft, had submitted to a vote a law making these drivers independent, while this American state had adopted, in 2019, a text which required these companies to treat their drivers like employees.
The two companies and other allied platforms had won the game: Golden State voters voted 58.6% in favor of “Proposition 22,” which dedicated paid work to the task while giving drivers some social benefits.
This proposal is unconstitutional, because it “Limits the power of a future California legislature to define mobile application drivers as workers recognized by the workers’ compensation law”, said Judge Frank Roesh, of the Alameda court, according to the newspaper Sacramento Bee. The result of the referendum is therefore “Inapplicable”, he said.
Uber will appeal
“We are going to appeal and we think we are going to win”, reacted a spokesperson for Uber. “This decision ignores the will of the majority of Californian voters and makes no sense either in terms of logic or under the law, he detailed. The California attorney strongly defended the constitutionality of Proposition 22. “
For Erica Mighetto, a driver who campaigned for employee status, this decision is a “Triumph for the future of work through apps”. “I am so happy that the courts see Proposition 22 as an attempt to destroy labor rights. I believe that now drivers have a real chance to fight for sufficient income to live and for a fair working environment ”, she told Agence France-Presse.
With its competitor Lyft and delivery services, Uber had spent more than 200 million dollars (170 million euros) to promote yes to Proposition 22 in November 2020.
Re-qualifying drivers as employees would mean granting them certain rights and benefits, such as unemployment benefits or possible collective bargaining.
A decision that divides
A year ago, three months before the vote, the two Californian companies threatened to completely cut off their service in the state, which would have put tens of thousands of people out of work.
In February, the California Supreme Court refused to accept the complaint of Uber drivers who wanted to force the state to reject the law approved by referendum. They hoped to argue that “Proposition 22” violated the California Constitution by limiting the ability of its elected officials to facilitate the organization of workers among themselves and by excluding drivers from the benefits to which they should be entitled as employees. .
“It’s disturbing that it took so much effort to legally recognize the obvious”, indignant Friday Mae Cee, who drives part-time for Uber and activates within the RDU (Rideshare Drivers United), an association of drivers.
But the drivers are divided between those who want to be employees and those who prefer to keep the current flexibility. Jim Pyatt, who serves in northern California, says the judge’s decision is a ” shame “. “They want to take away the ability of drivers to work independently and eliminate the new historic benefits offered by ‘proposition 22’, including guaranteed income, health insurance and more”, he argued, quoted in a statement by the organization which campaigned for the yes.