Uber, Lyft defeat unions in CA Prop. 22 fight

Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La March 14, 2023
Presented by Dairy Cares, Southern California Gas Company, Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership and Politifest 2023

Uber, Lyft defeat unions in CA Prop. 22 fight

Hundreds of thousands of California rideshare drivers finally have clarity on their job classification — but it’s not the outcome unions were hoping for.

A California appeals court ruled Monday that drivers can indeed be treated as independent contractors and not employees of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other platforms, reports CalMatters’ Grace Gedye.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, you’re probably thinking of Proposition 22 from 2020. Monday’s ruling upheld the initiative, which exempted rideshare companies from a law that would have required them to classify the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Californians who provide rides or deliveries as employees. 

Rideshare companies poured more than $224 million into the initiative, according to Ballotpedia. At the time, it was the state’s most expensive ballot measure, only surpassed last year by two sports gambling propositions. The money paid off, with voters passing Prop. 22 by a 58% to 42% margin. 

Though Prop. 22 granted workers some benefits, including a partial health care subsidy under certain conditions, drivers still don’t have access to other workplace benefits, such as minimum wage, sick leave, unemployment benefits and more.

  • Jennifer Barrera, president of the California Chamber of Commerce: “Voters knew what they were voting on. They wanted to maintain the flexibility for these gig workers and provide them the opportunity to do this work.”

Despite Monday’s news, this likely won’t be the last we hear on the issue. The Service Employees International Union said it will “consider all options,” which includes seeking a review from the state Supreme Court. 

  • Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation: “The Appeals Court chose to stand with powerful corporations over working people… Our system is broken.”

This victory for Uber and Lyft affirms the efforts of private companies to go to the ballot box to block state laws they don’t like. The bail bond industry, for example, managed to overturn a law that would have ended cash bail, and the tobacco industry tried but failed to reverse a law banning certain flavored tobacco products.

Two California ballot measures for the upcoming 2024 election, one backed by the fast food industry and the other by oil and gas companies, also aim to block existing laws that could curtail their business operations.

In other economic news: President Biden is in California this week. He was in San Diego on Monday with the prime ministers of the UK and Australia to discuss nuclear-powered submarines and relations with China. Today he’ll be visiting Monterey Park with U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla to call for stricter gun laws following the mass shooting there in January that left 11 people dead and nine others injured.

Biden’s visit, however, is being shadowed by California bank regulators’ seizure of Silicon Valley Bank. In remarks he gave from the White House before flying out to California, he put the blame for the bank’s demise on former President Trump’s rollback of banking requirements. The once-darling financial institution for tech startups is now under the control of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

This debacle has surprising reach outside the tech-fueled world of venture capitalists and trendy startups. The bank’s president for funds management, John China, sits on the board of First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s nonprofit, California Partners Project. The bank had its own political action committee and donated money to Newsom’s nonprofit, as well as other Democratic and Republican politicians alike, according to Politico. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s winery, PlumpJack Estate Winery, is also included in the bank’s list of premium wine clients.



1 Hello from CalMatters’ newsletter writer

CalMatters Newsletter Writer Lynn La. Photo courtesy of Lynn La
CalMatters newsletter writer Lynn La. Photo courtesy of Lynn La

Hi there, I’m Lynn. I’m CalMatters’ new newsletter writer. I’m thrilled to be joining this organization, which I’ve long admired for its transparency, high-impact reporting and service to California. 

I know I have some big shoes to fill — the previous writer, Emily Hoeven, did amazing work, and both Ben Christopher and Sameea Kamal have done a wonderful job stewarding the newsletter during this transition period. I’m excited to take the helm and pop into your inbox every weekday.

I most recently led thought leadership at an edtech company. For nearly a decade before that, I was a writer and editor covering tech. While it was a lot of fun looking at the latest and greatest gadgets, my favorite stories uncovered the more delicate and human aspects of the industry. For example, I explored the surprising impact that niche online communities had on body-image issues, and I dove into the U.S. Census Bureau’s efforts to usher canvassers into the digital age. 

Though most of my career journey took place in Silicon Valley, I’m not exactly a stranger to Sacramento and the state Capitol. In 2008 I worked inside the building itself (albeit in a small, basement-level room) as a newsroom intern for then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the wee hours of the morning, I’d search and aggregate news articles for his press staff, blasting out the clips to everyone’s Blackberry phones back when those were still a thing. After that came brief stints reporting for Capitol Weekly and The Sacramento Bee.

I’m delighted to continue my journalism career covering California politics and policy at CalMatters. I hope you stay along for the ride. Feel free to send questions, suggestions or tips to lynn@calmatters.org or reach out on Twitter.

2 Abortion protections, round two

An exam room at Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties’ health center. Image courtesy of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties
An exam room at Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties’ health center. Image courtesy of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties

From CalMatters health reporter Kristen Hwang: 

Last fall, California voters enshrined the right to abortion in the state constitution, but Democratic lawmakers made it clear Monday that their efforts to improve and protect reproductive rights aren’t finished.

The Legislative Women’s Caucus and California Future of Abortion Council detailed a 17-bill package aimed at strengthening provider and patient protections as well as increasing access and education. The announcement came days before a Texas judge is expected to issue a ruling that pulls mifepristone, a pill used for abortions and miscarriage management, off the shelves nationwide.

  • Sen. Nancy Skinner, chairperson of the women’s caucus and Democrat from Oakland: “We ain’t gonna roll over.” 

Skinner also issued a warning to retail pharmacies thinking of following in Walgreens’ steps to forego distributing abortion medication where attorneys general have made their opposition clear. “Corporations don’t wither under these assaults. Stand firm and represent your customers who believe that they deserve access to that medication.”

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom directed state agencies to end any contracts with Walgreens, resulting in the cancellation of a $54 million contract with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Abortion has become a signature issue for Newsom and Democratic legislators in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade’s historical protections last summer. The 2023 package comes on the heels of a successful legislative push last year, which resulted in more than $200 million allocated to reproductive health and 14 new laws.

Nearly half of the bills this year focus on strengthening patient and provider privacy and protections, including a measure introduced by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a Democrat from Orinda, to classify data collected by period-tracking and fertility mobile apps as confidential medical information. Abortion advocates are increasingly concerned about digital privacy as other states where abortion is banned pursue criminal charges based on private messages shared with law enforcement.

Other proposals seek to protect medical providers in other states and give new doctors in banned states the option to complete their medical training in California in order to learn abortion and gender-affirming clinical practices. 

Notably, lawmakers are also mounting another attempt at limiting the reach of crisis pregnancy centers, which are non-medical facilities established to dissuade people from getting an abortion. Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law requiring crisis pregnancy centers to also provide information on abortion as a violation of free speech.

This time around, new Assemblymember Pilar Schiavo, a Democrat from Santa Clarita, proposed a public information campaign “to provide women with accurate information regarding access to abortion care at crisis pregnancy centers.”

Bauer-Kahan also introduced a bill prohibiting crisis pregnancy centers from misrepresenting their services under the state’s false advertising law, although that bill is not part of the package.

3 More rain coming our way

A flooded neighborhood in Orosi on Mar. 12, 2023. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
A flooded neighborhood in Orosi on March 12, 2023. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

Brace yourselves, more rain is on the way. The atmospheric river forecasted to bear down on much of the state Monday night is anticipated to continue today and will hopefully lighten up by Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service

Along with potential flood damage, the weather service issued a high-wind warning (up to 70 mph in some coastal areas), which can cause power outages. The Sierra Nevada has already received two winters’ worth of snow since Christmas, with about 3 to 5 feet of more snow expected this week. 

While another round of storms won’t save us from this multi-year drought, the extra heaping of rain has helped fill reservoirs that are crucial for farmers in the Central Valley and southern California. Local wildlife is also benefiting: Because of last week’s storms, state water officials reversed their decision to allow more water storage in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which environmentalists said would have put salmon and other fish at risk.

California’s water crisis, explained: The state is gripped by a deep drought. CalMatters has a detailed look at how California might increase its water supply. And now, you can read it in Spanish.   


CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Six years ago, Gavin Newsom pledged an all-out effort to build 3.5 million new housing units by 2025, but only a small fraction of that goal has materialized despite dozens of new laws and increased pressure on local governments.

A coalition has called for California’s water regulator to protect Mono Lake and suspend diversions to Los Angeles, a controversy that highlights how California struggles with water rights during a drought, writes Martha Davis, a board member and former executive director for the Mono Lake Committee.


Other things worth your time

Some stories may require a subscription to read

Newsom’s former chief is repping Walgreens in abortion pill fight // Politico

Climate change is moving too fast for these Sierra Nevada trees to keep up // NPR

LA teachers union, other workers plan three-day strike // Los Angeles Times

Sacramento is exploring a vacancy tax on empty lots, storefronts and possibly even homes // CapRadio

Most overdose deaths in SF involve multiple drugs, fentanyl // San Francisco Chronicle

The ties between Kevin de León and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation // Los Angeles Times 

Burning Man fights to save its new home in the Old West // San Francisco Standard

American highway system is a monument to environmental racism and inequity // KQED

Tom Girardi gave $1 million in gifts to State Bar investigator, probe finds // Los Angeles Times

San Clemente leaders move to push homeless off local beaches // Voice of OC

Author of plagiarized Santa Clara County book to keep $1M in taxpayer money // The Mercury News

See you tomorrow


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