Proposition 22, the metaphor we will live by?

One of the advantages of living in a country / region which is not at the forefront of innovation (and progress), is that you can explore future scenarios by simply looking at the countries / regions which are leading.

This is a must read (if you can walk through the paywall) to understand the state-of-the-art of the so called gig economy. Let me try to summarize.

After years of tug of war, back and forth among companies (like Uber), drivers, unions, media & public opinion, and legislators they reached a climax in California in 2019.

In that year, Assembly Bill 5 was passed. It was designed by lawmakers to require companies to classify ride-hail drivers and other gig-economy workers as “employees”, unless companies can prove that the workers are not directed or controlled by the company during their work time, their work is not the company’s “core” business, and the worker has their own business doing that type of work.

In August 2020, the California court ordered Uber and Lyft to comply with the law within a 10-day deadline. The companies threatened to shut down their operation in California if drivers had to become employees. (The Facebook method now in Australia). On the very deadline day, the companies asked for an extension. The court granted an extension until November 4, 2020.

Last year companies Lyft, Uber, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates spent a record $200 million campaigning for an Election Day ballot measure that would exempt them from the California law: Proposition 22.

Proposition 22 was a ballot initiative passed on the November 2020 which granted app-based transportation and delivery companies an exception to Assembly Bill 5 by classifying their drivers as “independent contractors”, rather than “employees”, and thereby exempting employers from providing the full suite of mandated employee benefits (which include time-and-a-half for overtime, paid sick time, employer-provided health care, bargaining rights, and unemployment insurance – among others) while instead giving drivers new protections.

Proposition 22 has left many drivers feeling stranded in the worst of both worlds—as beholden to bosses’ whims as employees, without the corresponding protections. But here comes the best.

Employees in related fields are already feeling the knock-on effects. In December, Albertsons Cos., the supermarket chain, started informing delivery drivers they’d be replaced by contractors.

Companies in a range of industries could use the Prop 22 model to undermine or eliminate employment protections. A week after the election, Shawn Carolan, a partner at early Uber investor Menlo Ventures, wrote an op-ed heralding the potential to spread Prop 22’s vision of work “from agriculture to zookeeping,” including to “nursing, executive assistance, tutoring, programming, restaurant work and design.” The Coalition for Workforce Innovation, a lobbying group that seeks to enable wider use of contract labor, includes trade groups representing Amazon.com, Apple, AT&T, Comcast NBCUniversal, CVS Health, General Motors, Nike, Rite Aid, Starbucks, T-Mobile, Verizon Communications, and Walmart, as well as construction, finance, media, sales, and trucking interests.

The Gig Economy Is Coming for Millions of American Jobs, Bloomberg

Remember when you were at school, two idiots in the classroom crying and sabotaging the class of that new unexperienced teacher, until suddenly the director appeared and all the class ended up punished. That sort of story. Does it ring a bell?

What do I see when I watch these future scenarios evolving inside of my particular crystal ball? What I see is that jobs and the job market is one of the most obsolete things we have in our economy. I see that jobs as the main or only way to share wealth in society is a deadly trap. Even worse a Lakoffian metaphor which enslaves us all in a nightmarish future. I see politicians digging deeper and deeper the tomb in which more and more workers will be buried. And see that we badly need new ideas!!

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Featured Image: Taxi Strike in Barcelona

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