Vice President, Labor Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
June 03, 2021
As observers of labor policy know, unions and their allies have undertaken a concerted effort in recent years to undermine independent contracting, and that effort has led to misguided policies like California’s notorious legislation known as AB 5, the ramifications of which are still unfolding.
The AB 5 bill codified a dubious “ABC” test that made classifying an individual as an independent contractor significantly more difficult. This test was first adopted by the state supreme court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles. Despite the judicial and legislative actions, however, public sentiment does not appear to support these ideological diktats.
Indeed, as this blog recounted on a few occasions, many of the independent contractors that AB 5 purportedly sought to protect had their careers—not to mention their lives—upended because of the law. That’s because businesses had to choose whether or not they could bear the costs and liabilities of having an employment relationship with their erstwhile independent contractors, which led many to sever ties after concluding that they could not.
The damage caused by AB 5 was so extensive that the California legislature was forced to pass bills exempting industry after industry before the proverbial ink was dry. After a concerted effort by the business community and countless independent contractors who organized themselves against AB 5, California voters had their say in November 2020, when they passed Proposition 22, which provides that drivers for app-based rideshare and delivery companies may remain independent contractors rather than employees if certain conditions are met.
Six months later, new polling information suggests that Californians who work as independent contractors maintain their support for that decision. An independent research firm, Benneson Strategy Group, surveyed delivery people who have driven using the Uber or Uber Eats platform since January 2021 to gauge their sentiment, and the results were quite clear.
Awareness of Proposition 22 was almost universal (92%) among respondents, and 63% said it had already impacted them directly. Of those, nine out of ten said the impact had been positive. Asked how they felt now that Proposition 22 had passed, 82% said they were happy it had, and 51% said that they were very happy, with 76% agreeing that the measure benefitted them personally.
At a broader level, 75% of respondents also said that the policies adopted by Proposition 22 would provide a better future for them, and likewise 75% agreed that drivers in other states would benefit if a law similar to Proposition 22 were adopted there. A great majority (84%) agreed that Proposition 22 is a better alternative than forcing drivers into a traditional employee relationship, while almost as many also agreed having more of a safety net is also better. Over 80% also said they enjoy the flexibility and independence that comes with being an independent contractor.
It is worth noting that the Bennison Strategy Group conducted presidential polls on behalf of President Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, so the guffawing one might expect from certain quarters about these poll results may remain muted. What’s more important, though, is the reminder for policymakers that their efforts to micro-manage economic relationships not only cause more harm than good, they are not even what most people want. Voters may remind them of this fact in the next election.