After their Election Day victory, the companies were quick to signal they would pursue models similar to Prop 22 outside the state, underscoring how their business models remain on unsteady ground.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on the company’s November 5 earnings call that, “you’ll see us more loudly advocating for new laws like Prop 22,” calling it an “IC+ model,” short for independent contractor plus some benefits. He added “we want to have a dialogue” with governments in other states. Lyft CEO Logan Green echoed that sentiment days later on its earnings call, saying it is “continuing to engage with policymakers across the country.”
Jenny Montoya Tansey, policy director at the Public Rights Project, a public interest legal nonprofit that has been involved with AB-5 enforcement efforts in California told CNN Business that it is “not surprising to me to hear that Uber and Lyft are now saying they want to take the fight to other states — because they’re going to need to.”
Montoya Tansey said that the attention that the AB-5 law, and the ensuing enforcement action, received “shone an even sharper light for other states and cities around the country to start thinking about pursuing these companies on worker rights.”
“They had a good month,” she added. “But I don’t think that necessarily means things are always going to be good for them in the future.”
Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Boston-based lawyer who has been challenging Uber and Lyft over worker classification through various lawsuits for seven years, told CNN Business that it is clear the gig economy companies have been “emboldened from what they were able to pull off in California.”
A new administration
William Gould IV, a Stanford University law professor and former National Labor Relations Board chairman, told CNN Business that while “it’s early days,” the companies are “likely to face some kind of pushback at the national level. We’ll see some tip-off when we see who is appointed Secretary of Labor.”
Biden has also endorsed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act or Pro Act, which provides new protections to workers around the right to organize. It expands who has the right to unionize by using an “ABC” test to determine if workers are employees. He has pledged to appoint members to the NLRB “who will protect, rather than sabotage, worker organizing, collective bargaining, and workers’ rights to engage in concerted activity whether or not they belong to a union.”
Vanessa Bain, a California-based gig worker and founder of a non-profit Gig Workers Collective, said she doesn’t expect the fight for proper benefits and protections to get much easier.
“It is not as simple as ‘Biden is President.’ It is still going to be an uphill battle,” she told CNN Business, while adding that the national fight is what’s next. “We’re in a situation where, excluding legal remedies to Prop 22, we really need to go above its head and go to the federal level.”
Bain said her organization is talking to allies to strategize on what’s next.
“We absolutely took a major L – it doesn’t feel good but I do feel more committed than ever to the work of ensuring gig workers are properly classified,” added Bain.
A deal with labor?
“I’d rather stand in the same room talking across the table than not talking to each other,” Zimmer said in an interview on CNN International’s First Move with Julia Chatterley last week, adding that the company has spoken with unions in recent years but never reached a deal. “I’m hopeful we can continue those conversations.”
Rome Aloise, International Vice President of Teamsters, told CNN Business said it talked with Uber and Lyft for several years but never got close to a deal. The sticking point has been employee status and striking something good for drivers, that would also protect “our traditional companies from being sucked into this big abyss.” Teamsters represents hundreds of thousands of UPS workers, for example.
“We stand, and will continue to stand, with rideshare drivers in their fight to improve working conditions, pay and win a voice at work,” said Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union, in a statement.
Teamster’s Aloise said there’s interest in talking — “you can’t find a solution if you’re not talking” — but not to expect anything imminent.
“I don’t want to give the impression there’s something out there that could be easily done, I don’t think we’re any place close at this point,” Aloise said. “We haven’t had any discussions since Prop 22 passed, I can tell you that.”