The California Supreme Court on Wednesday denied the Service Employees International Union’s petition for a writ of mandate challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 22, the $200 million ballot measure that California voters approved in November to keep gig drivers independent contractors rather than employees.
The court denied the petition in a brief docket entry, “without prejudice to refiling in an appropriate court.” The entry also states that Justices Goodwin Liu and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar “are of the opinion an order to show cause should be issued.”
The SEIU — along with the the SEIU California State Council, three rideshare drivers, and one rideshare app user — filed the petition last month, alleging that Prop. 22 unconstitutionally limits the power of elected officials to govern. The petition claimed the measure strips the state Legislature of its ability to grant workers the right to organize, illegally excludes workers from the state’s workers’ compensation program, and unconstitutionally violated the “single subject rule” governing California ballot measures.
Hector Castellanos, one of the petitioning drivers, said in a statement that he and the other petitioners “are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear our case, but make no mistake: we are not deterred in our fight to win a livable wage and basic rights.”
“We will consider every option available to protect California workers from attempts by companies like Uber and Lyft to subvert our democracy and attack our rights in order to improve their bottom lines,” Castellanos said.
Proposition 22, the most expensive ballot measure in California history, carves out app-based transportation and delivery drivers from AB 5, the landmark bill that took effect in 2020 making it much harder for companies to classify their workers as independent contractors rather than employees. AB 5 codified the California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles (2018) 4 Cal.5th 903, setting out what’s known as the “ABC test” for determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.
Gig companies had been fighting the law in the courts since it took effect, and Prop. 22’s passage was a victory for companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, whose business models are built on a labor force of independent contractors who aren’t entitled to traditional employment benefits.
Jim Pyatt, an Uber driver from Modesto, said in a statement emailed through the campaign that supported Prop. 22 that the drivers who supported the measure are “thankful, but not surprised” that the high court rejected the “meritless” petition challenging the measure.
“We’re hopeful this will send a strong signal to special interests to stop trying to undermine the will of voters who overwhelmingly stood with drivers to pass Proposition 22,” Pyatt said.
The case is Castellanos v. State of California, case number S266551, in the Supreme Court of California.
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