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Uber drivers sue company alleging coercive Prop 22 advertising

Megan Rose Dickey
·2 min read
A ride share driver participates in a protest by drivers and their supporters, August 20, 2020 at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. - Rideshare service rivals Uber and Lyft were given a temporary reprieve on August 20 from having to reclassify drivers as employees in their home state of California by August 21. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
A ride share driver participates in a protest by drivers and their supporters, August 20, 2020 at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. - Rideshare service rivals Uber and Lyft were given a temporary reprieve on August 20 from having to reclassify drivers as employees in their home state of California by August 21. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Uber is facing a class-action lawsuit over Proposition 22 that alleges the company is illegally coercing its drivers to support the ballot measure that seeks to keep workers classified as independent contractors. The suit was brought forth by two Uber drivers, Benjamin Valdez and Hector Castellanos, as well as two California nonprofit organizations, Worksafe and Chinese Progressive Association.

"Let’s be absolutely clear," David Lowe, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. "Uber’s threats and constant barrage of Prop 22 propaganda on an app the drivers must use to do their work have one purpose: to coerce the drivers to support Uber’s political battle to strip them of workplace protections."

Update 10/28: A judge has denied the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order, saying the suit doesn't prove any Uber drivers have been punished for not cooperating with Prop 22 and that the request for the injunction is belated.

In the suit, provided by The New York Times reporter Kate Conger, the plaintiffs argue Uber has encouraged its drivers and delivery workers to support Prop 22 via the company's driver-scheduling app.

"Uber's solicitations have the purpose and effect of causing drivers to fear retaliation by Uber if they do not support Uber's political preference and may induce many drivers to falsely state that they support being deprived of the rights that California law guarantees to statutory 'employees,' " the suit states.

This group says it also plans to file legal claims against Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash with the California Labor Commissioner.

"This is an absurd lawsuit, without merit, filed solely for press attention and without regard for the facts," Uber spokesperson Matt Kallman said in a statement to TechCrunch. "It can’t distract from the truth: that the vast majority of drivers support Prop 22, and have for months, because they know it will improve their lives and protect the way they prefer to work."

Prop 22 is the most-funded campaign in California's history. To date, the Yes on 22 side has put north of $185 million into the initiative. Uber, Lyft and DoorDash are the biggest contributors on the yes side. Meanwhile, the No on 22 campaign has contributed $12,166,063.