In a sprawling lot by Los Angeles International Airport, drivers for ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft wait for new passengers. Ask them about Proposition 22 — the measure on the California ballot that will determine their worker classification as either independent contractors or employees — and you get a surge of fierce opinions.
Many support the measure. "I'm for Prop. 22 because I am already a full-time employee and (driving) is my second job. I also have six kids and need to pick them up from school and take them to doctors appointments," one driver said. "I need a flexible schedule."
Another driver used an expletive to describe Proposition 22, adding that Uber and Lyft "want to keep enslaving drivers. They still control how much you make even if they call you independent."
Campaigns on both sides of the ballot initiative have put drivers at the center of their messaging.
Opponents' approximately $16-million campaign, backed by labor groups, argues that workers deserve more pay and benefits.
On the other side, gig-economy companies including Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart, which together have poured roughly $200 million into promoting Proposition 22, tout surveys that indicate driver support for the measure.
In addition to their public-facing campaign, gig companies have been energetically pressing their own drivers to vote yes and — regardless of the drivers' feelings on the matter — to push the same message to customers.
Many drivers see passing the measure as a way to keep their current levels of income and autonomy. But others chafe at the flood of pro-Proposition 22 messaging and the role they're expected to play.
This month, Uber emailed riders and Uber Eats users in California, encouraging them to ask drivers how they felt about Proposition 22. DoorDash dispatched millions of paper bags emblazoned with pro-22 messaging to hundreds of restaurants statewide so workers would deliver meals in them. Instacart drivers assigned to deliver groceries from a store in Berkeley received notifications asking them to pick up and include Yes on 22 stickers in customers' grocery bags.
"Unbelievable," tweeted Vanessa Bain, an Instacart shopper and labor activist who opposes the ballot measure. "@Instacart is now requiring Shoppers to do the uncompensated work of distributing Prop 22 propaganda to customers — against our own self-interests."