Uber and Lyft are pushing a proposition this November they say is vital to their survival in California.
And the ads are already starting.
At issue is Proposition 22, which would carve an exemption into state law to allow the rideshare companies to continue employing drivers as independent contractors. Otherwise, they would have to reclassify the drivers as employees, guaranteeing them a swath of rights and protections, as mandated by Assembly Bill 5, which the state passed in 2019.
Prop 22 would allow the rideshare companies to continue employing drivers as independent contractors, but guarantees them a minimum pay and also money for health insurance once they work a certain number of hours.
"I only do this because it fits my lifestyle and what I do," said Chelsea Scott, a San Diego musician who drives for Uber and Lyft. "We're not getting benefits. We don't get any of those things, and I knew that coming into this. This wasn't a trick of any kind."
Uber, Lyft, and Doordash released a new 30-second television ad that makes claims about the timing and impact of the law.
First, it says California politicians passed AB 5 amid skyrocketing unemployment. Truth be told, the bill was signed into law in September 2019, before the coronavirus was even discovered. At the time, the state's unemployment rate was 4.2%. In August, it was 13.3%.
However, the ad follows that with a key point, under AB 5, it will be illegal for rideshare drivers to operate as independent contractors in California. The narrator says that is "threatening to shut down rideshare and food delivery services."
Truth be told, AB 5 does not shut down the services, but the services themselves could make the decision to shut down, which Uber and Lyft threatened to do in California last month after a court decision did not go in their favor.
San Diego employment attorney Dan Eaton says overall the core point of the ad stands that jobs could be cut.
"They're saying, 'All right, fine, don't do this, but then don't complain when Uber and Lyft pull out of California,'" he said.
The ad says Prop 22 "protects" drivers' abilities to work as independent contractors and saves critical jobs. For voters, however, it's all about whether they see being an independent contractor as protection in and of itself.