Jovanka Beckles, Richmond city councilmember and candidate for the California state Assembly in District 15, has strongly condemned lobbying by gig economy firms aimed at overturning new legal protections for employees wrongly classified as “independent contractors.”
Beckles urged state legislators to reject an attempt by Uber and Lyft to nullify a pro-labor decision by the California Supreme Court in April. In that precedent setting case (Dynamex Operations West Inv. V. Superior Court of Los Angeles), new standards were created for determining if workers should be covered by state wage-and-hour laws even when their employers treat them as contractors.
The court’s decision, applauded by the California Labor Federation, makes it harder for ride-sharing companies to strip their growing workforce of normal job rights and protections. Yet Uber, Lyft, and the California Chamber of Commerce are now demanding that Governor Jerry Brown, his likely successor Gavin Newsom, and members of the legislature help them reverse this legal victory.
According to an August 5 Bloomberg report, “the Chamber aims to get a legislative fix introduced and passed by the state’s assembly and senate before the state’s legislative session closes at the end of the month.” This week, the Chamber-backed “I’m Independent” Coalition, is holding a big lobbying day, funded by Google, Amazon, and Facebook, which also hire many contractors.
Beckles, who is running as a corporate-money-free candidate for the Assembly, urged her supporters to contact legislators about their own experiences as workers denied job-based benefit coverage and collective bargaining rights at ride sharing or tech companies.
“California should continue to be a national leader in employment rights,” Beckles said. “Doing the bidding of gig economy firms like Lyft and Uber only facilitates more wage theft and workplace exploitation of Californians struggling to survive by juggling multiple jobs.”
Beckles’s opponent in the Assembly District 15 race is Democrat Buffy Wicks, who is backed by fellow Obama Administration officials who went to work for Uber and Lyft. One is former presidential advisor David Plouffe who served as Uber’s senior Vice-President of Policy and Strategy after he left the White House. Plouffe issued an appeal last fall for donations to Wicks’ primary campaign, which became the beneficiary of $1.2 million in spending by wealthy direct donors and outside interest groups. Among those giving money to Wick’s campaign are Uber department heads, lawyers, and public affairs specialists, plus Plouffe himself.
In May, former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, now a high-paid director at Lyft , headlined a campaign event for Wicks in Richmond. Jarrett has praised the firm now fighting worker protections in California for its “enlightened corporate values.” Lyft, in turn, has welcomed Jarrett as “a great partner” and “a natural fit for our board.”