California Supreme Court Hesitant to Overrule Gig Worker Law

( – In 2020, the majority of California voters chose to pass Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that allowed companies like Uber and Lyft to continue treating their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. It also established certain wage and labor policies. The following year, a Superior Court judge ruled that two parts of the measure were unconstitutional, but an appeals court reversed that ruling. The matter now sits before the California Supreme Court.

On May 21, the state’s supreme court began hearing oral arguments on the case, which could affect over a million gig workers in the Golden State. Based on the questions the justices asked, it appears they might be looking for a compromise on the matter. The main issue before the court centers around whether Proposition 22 conflicts with whether California’s legislature has the power to enforce compensation rules for workers. A clause in the initiative makes independent contractors ineligible for workers’ compensation.

The lawyer arguing on behalf of a few gig workers and SEIU California said the proposition conflicts with the legislature’s power over workers’ compensation. The chief justice responded by asking whether lawmakers could make that available to gig workers. Another justice on the court wanted some clarification about the power of voters, asking if they had any say over workers’ comp at all. The attorney, Scott Kronland, said the legislature’s power over that benefit was unlimited.

The opposition representing the gig-worker companies stated that California’s constitution gives voters a voice on all matters. That statement elicited a question from another associate justice who asked if that means voters could abolish workers’ compensation completely — the attorney answered in the affirmative, adding that wasn’t currently on the table.

If the high court rules to throw out Proposition 22, gig workers will lose the guaranteed earnings that some have come to depend on. The lead plaintiff in the case, Hector Castellanos, said the drivers are asking the justices to back them up on this issue and protect drivers.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

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