1 With a quarter of voters still undecided, a poll finds only 39% approval for California’s Prop. 22 despite big spending by Uber and Lyft.
California voters are tepid about Proposition 22, a statewide poll shows, despite a jawdropping $184.3 million poured into it by Uber, Lyft and other gig companies trying to keep their drivers and couriers as independent contractors.
Of 5,900 likely voters polled, 39% would vote yes on Prop. 22, while 36% said they would vote no, and 25% remain undecided, according to the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, which conducted the survey Sept. 915. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus two points. Prop. 22 needs just over 50% of votes to pass.
“These numbers don’t look encouraging for the Yes side,” said Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “Going into October, you don’t want to be languishing in the high 30s or low 40s.”
Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Instacart and Postmates have joined forces on Prop. 22 in an effort to duck California’s new gigwork law, AB5, which could compel them to reclassify their workers as employees. Prop. 22 would
permanently enshrine independent contractor status for the companies’ gig workers, while allowing for some pay guarantees and some benefits.
Uber and Lyft are also battling AB5 in court, where California and some cities have sued them over driver classification. The ride companies have threatened to leave California or curtail service in the state if they lose the court case and Prop. 22 does not pass. They already did a test run, so to speak, preparing to suspend service in August if they had to abide by a temporary injunction forcing immediate driver reclassification. That injunction was stayed pending an appeal, so they did not proceed with their contingency plans.
“With Uber and Lyft saying, ‘If this doesn’t pass, we’re out of California,’ it will be interesting to see if people believe that, especially their users,” said Jack Citrin professor of political science at UC Berkeley.
The gig companies say their business models and their workers rely on the flexibility of freelance work. Switching to employment, with costs such as minimum wage, overtime and benefits, could add hundreds of millions of dollars to their expenses.
That’s why they’re willing to spend so deeply, Levinson said.
“They’re going all in on this,” she said. “They know it makes all the sense in the world” to spend millions to reap even more millions.
But Citrin noted that big spending is not a guarantee of success.
“We know that money does not always win out in these things,” he said.
The No on Prop. 22 campaign, which has raised slightly over $10 million — about oneeighteenth of the Yes side’s massive war chest — was quick to highlight the gig companies’ deep pockets.
“After recordshattering spending on TV, radio and every other platform imaginable since July — I guess more isn’t always better when you’re pushing a deceptive measure to rip basic benefits and protections away from your workers,” said Gale Kaufman, chief consultant for No on Prop. 22, which is backed by organized labor.
The Yes campaign put a positive spin on the survey.
“As voters learn more about Prop. 22 and the benefits provided to both drivers and customers, we are seeing growing support across the political spectrum,” Yes on 22 spokesman Geoff Vetter said in a statement. “With six weeks until the election, our campaign is hitting its stride with more than 100,000 drivers and 100 coalition partners actively supporting Prop. 22.”
Levinson said a lot could change in coming weeks, noting that many voters haven’t yet paid attention to ballot initiatives.
“All the oxygen in the room is sucked up by the presidential campaign,” she said.
The barrage of TV ads that Yes on 22’s deep pockets are financing could sway the older Californians who reliably vote in large numbers, she said.
On the other hand, while No on 22 is being drastically outspent, “it is hard to overstate the importance of union opposition,” she said. “For people who are union members or sympathetic to unions, if they get a call or text, it’s a huge motivation for them.”
Many union members, including furloughed hotel workers, are now actively calling union households throughout the state to urge them to vote no on Prop. 22.
Yes on 22 last week donated $2 million to the California Republican Party, as KPFA Radio reporter Ariel Boone first reported on Twitter. It also donated $20,000 to the Ventura County Republican Party and $2,593 to the Santa Clara County Republican Party, Vice reported.
Vetter said the measure has support from “groups across the political spectrum” and that the contributions are to assist the party “in their member communications.”
Republican support for Prop. 22 was strong, according to the poll, with 53% supporting it and 29% opposed. The poll showed that 42% of Democrats would vote no on 22, while 31% would vote yes and 27% were undecided.
Some drivers for Uber and Lyft oppose Proposition 22, which would maintain their status as independent contractors rather than employees and is backed and partly financed by the ridehail companies.