Labor vs. Management

Usually standoffs between employees and their bosses take place behind closed doors. In California, you often find them on the ballot. 

Prop. 22: Self-employment for ride-hail and other app-drivers

Who put it there: Signatures, via a campaign mostly funded by Lyft, Uber and Doordash

Type: Statute

What it would do: Turn “app-based” drivers into independent contractors, exempting companies such as Lyft and Uber from standard wage and hour restrictions. It would also guarantee these drivers an earnings floor, a stipend to purchase health insurance and other minimum benefits. 

Unless you happen to be an anti-vaccine protestor, the most controversial law of the 2019 legislative session was Assembly Bill 5. On its face, the law simply codified a state Supreme Court ruling, making it much harder for companies to treat their workers as independent contractors, rather than full-fledged employees. In practice, it upended the business models of Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Postmates and Instacart, all of which rely on an army of phone-toting gig-workers to provide their various services.

In the months since, all attempts at legislative compromise have fizzled, California’s Attorney General has sued Uber and Lyft for violating the new law and California regulators declared their drivers to be employees. 

As a last-ditch effort, the various companies implicated have poured $110 million — and counting — to push a ballot measure that would simply exclude their drivers from the law. And throwing a bone to critics who say their drivers are mistreated, the measure also imposes some worker benefits and protections.

Prop. 23: Regulating dialysis clinics

Who put it there: Signatures, via an effort funded entirely by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West

Type: Statute

What it would do: Require dialysis clinics to have at least one physician on site at all times and to report patient infection data to California health officials.

DaVita Kidney Care and Fresenius Medical Care own the majority of the for-profit dialysis clinics in the state. For years, the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers union has been at war with them. 

After unsuccessful efforts to unionize clinic staff, the union sponsored legislation to cap reimbursement rates to clinics and floated an array of possible ballot measures to boost their staff spending and cut their profits. In 2018, the union finally got one on the ballot: Prop 8, which would have set a cap on clinic profit margins. 

The measure was soundly defeated, but only after the two companies spent over $111 million, making it the most expensive ballot campaign ever. This one isn’t likely to be much cheaper.