- If passed, California’s Prop. 22 would classify gig workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers, as independent contractors instead of employees, meaning they might have more flexibility in their schedules but are not given standard full benefits like healthcare and sick leave.
- Uber, Lyft, and other apps have shelled out a whopping $200 million into a ‘Yes on 22’ campaign. Meanwhile, its opponents have spent about $20 million, with prominent figures like presidential candidate Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris speaking out against it.
- Currently, California voters are split. A UC Berkeley poll found that 46% of voters said they were voting yes, 42% were voting no, and 12% were undecided
- Experts think that no matter which way the vote goes, this could be the start of a national debate about gig workers in America, how companies treat them, and how that work is regulated.
What is Prop. 22?
While California’s divisive Proposition 22 might only be on the ballot in one state, the impacts of it could be felt nationwide.
Prop. 22 exempts app-based rideshare and delivery companies from providing certain workers with benefits by classifying drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. It comes one year after a law known as AB5 was passed in the state requiring gig workers to be treated as employees, and aims to carve an exception for major rideshare and similar companies.
Supporters of Prop. 22 include those companies, like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. They say that the measure gives drivers flexibility in their schedules, as well as minimum earnings benefits, even though it does not provide the full standard benefits employees would receive. They also say it protects jobs and that prices could increase if Prop. 22 fails.
However, opponents argue that these companies should not be allowed to skirt around rules to avoid giving their workers full benefits. Those who have come out against the proposition include the California Labor Federation and Sen. Kamala Harris. The prop has even made national headlines, with presidential candidate Joe Biden and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also coming out against it.
National Implications for Prop. 22
It’s a split issue among California voters. According to a late October poll from UC Berkeley, 46% said they were voting yes, 42% were voting no, and 12% were undecided. But the decision is large, as experts think its implications will reach beyond the borders of the state.
For example, if Prop. 22 passes, other companies could be prompted to follow Uber and Lyft’s independent contracting model.
“I think you’ll see platform-based companies in other service industries either try to fit themselves into the exception [to AB5], or, if Proposition 22 is successful, try to do the same thing,” attorney Jason Morris told CBS News.
He is not alone in thinking this. New York Times reporter Kate Conger, who has covered Prop. 22, thinks this is the first page of a national dialogue around gig workers.
“No matter the outcome of Proposition 22, it’s just the beginning of what I think will become a national debate over regulating gig work. Companies like Uber and Lyft are already beginning to lobby for similar changes at the federal level,” she said.
“It also raises questions about how traditional employers will manage their workforces in the future,” Conger continued. “Will we see employers shift their employees to a gig work model in order to take advantage of the reduction in costs that Uber and Lyft have long enjoyed?”
High-Budget Campaign from ‘Yes on 22’
The ‘Yes on 22’ campaign has spared no expense when it comes to rallying support for the proposition. Politico reported that the campaign has spent over $200 million on the effort, with virtually all of that money coming from five companies: Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Instacart and DoorDash. Their opponents have raised just around $20 million in comparison.
‘Yes on 22’ ads are plastered all over the state and aired constantly on television. One of their biggest claims is that drivers support the proposition by a 4-1 margin, but that statistic has been called into question. According to a fact check from the Sacramento Bee, that claim is true but only in part.
The campaign cites a poll from a blog called The Rideshare Guy, as well as other polls commissioned by Uber. While those do show that 70-80% of drivers support Prop. 22, the Bee writes that these polls are not “scientific.” The survey was not done by a random sampling of drivers, just by those who were signed up for the site’s digital newsletter. Uber’s poll also had slanted questions that may have pushed the results.
“They have highly biased and problematic surveys from which they are getting this data from,” UC Hastings law professor Veena Dubal told the Bee.
Uber and other companies have also faced criticism for pressuring their employees into supporting the measure. Drivers ended up suing Uber for bombarding them with messages about Prop. 22 in the app while they were driving, asking them to pledge their support. A judge ended up siding with Uber over the matter.
On October 30, Uber engineer Eddy Hernandez wrote a piece explaining his decision to leave the company over the pressure they were putting on employees when it came to Prop. 22, which he disagrees with.
“Inside the company, pushing back against Prop 22 was like trying to stop a bullet. Leadership made it a company-wide initiative, which meant that Prop 22 was part of employees’ performance and promotion reviews,” Hernandez wrote.
“On top of that, internal messaging communicated an expectation of loyalty toward Uber above all else,” he continued. “Unlike drivers, I did not have to deal with constant in-app pop-ups asking me to commit myself to voting Yes on Prop 22. But if I as an engineer with considerable power, influence, and access to Uber leadership felt coerced into silence about Prop 22, how did drivers feel?”
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Business Insider) (San Francisco Gate)
Amazon Backs GOP Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Effort to Ramp Up Lobbying
The proposal is the first Republican-sponsored marijuana bill Amazon has backed since the company first began lobbying for legalization last summer.
Amazon Endorses States Reform Act
Amazon announced Tuesday that it is endorsing a Republican-backed proposal to legalize marijuana.
The move comes as the e-commerce giant has ramped up its efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level since it came out in support of the idea last summer. Amazon argues that the move would remove hiring barriers — which disproportionately impact people of color — and, in turn, could increase the company’s application pool and boost employee retention.
The company has previously backed similar proposals by forward by Democrats, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time Amazon has put its support behind a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at addressing the issue.
The legislation, called the States Reform Act, was authored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Among other measures, it would remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance, allow states to create their own laws, impose an excise tax, and regulate the drug in a similar fashion to alcohol.
While Mace’s bill is fundamentally very similar to others put forth by Democrats, by proposing it herself, the Republican hopes to rally other members of her party around the idea that legalization is pro-business, pro-state’s rights, and anti-big government.
The measure has already received support from the highly influential conservative group, American’s for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.
Mace and Amazon have painted the company’s endorsement as a game-changer for garnering more support — both from other large corporations and politicians on either side of the aisle. Mace specifically told reporters she believes Amazon’s decision will push other companies to do the same. If more major corporations like Amazon back the effort, other Republicans may be more persuaded to jump on board.
That sentiment was echoed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, who said in an interview with The Washington Post that the company was “particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill” because “it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue.”
Huseman also emphasized that, as part of its decision to back her bill, Amazon will use its powerful influence in Washington to try and drum up bipartisan support.
“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” he continued.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Marijuana Moment)
CDC Data Shows Booster Shots Provide Effective Protection Against Omicron
Public health experts have encouraged Americans to get boosted to protect themselves against the omicron variant, but less than 40% of fully vaccinated people who are eligible for their third shot have received it.
A First Glimpse of Official Data on Boosters and Omicron
COVID-19 booster shots are effective at preventing Americans from contracting omicron and protecting those who do become infected from severe illness, according to three reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Friday.
The reports mark the first real-world data regarding the highly infectious variant and how it has impacted the U.S.
One of the CDC reports, which studied data from 25 state and local health departments, found that there were 149 cases per 100,000 people among those had been boosted on average each week.
In comparison, the figure was 255 cases per 100,000 people in Americans who had only received two shots.
Another study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations in 10 states found that the third doses were 90% effective at preventing hospitalization.
By contrast, those who received just two shots were only 57% protected against hospitalization by the time they were eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.
Additionally, the same report also found that the boosters were 82% effective at preventing visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, a marked increase from the 38% efficacy for those who were six months out from their two-shot regime and had not yet received a third.
Low Booster Shot Vaccination Rates
Public health officials hope that the new data will urge more Americans to get their booster shots.
Since the emergence of omicron, experts and leading political figures have renewed their efforts to encourage people to get their third shots, arguing they are the best form of protection.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone 12 and older get a booster shot five months after their second shot of Pfizer and Moderna or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, in the U.S., less than 40% of fully vaccinated individuals eligible for a third shot have gotten one.
While COVID cases in the country have begun to drop over the past several days from their peak of over 800,000 average daily infections, the figures are still nearly triple those seen in the largest previous surges.
Hospitalizations have also slowly begun to level out over the last week in places that were hit first, such as New York City and Boston, but medical resources still remain strained in many parts of the country that experienced later surges and have not yet seen cases slow.
Some experts predict that the U.S. will see a sharp decline in omicron cases, as experienced in South Africa and Britain. Still, they urge American’s to get boosted to ensure their continued protection from the variant, as well as other strains that will emerge.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
California Bill Would Allow Kids 12 and Up to Get Vaccinated Without Parental Consent
Nearly one million California teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 17 are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
State Senator Proposes Legislation
Legislation proposed in California on Thursday would allow children age 12 and up to get vaccinated without parental consent.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Bill 866 in the hope it could boost vaccination rates among teenagers. According to Wiener, nearly one million kids aged 12- to 17-years old remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the state of California.
“Unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe,” Wiener tweeted. “They often can’t work, participate in sports, or go to friends’ homes.”
“Many want to get vaccinated but parents won’t let them or aren’t making the time to take them. Teens shouldn’t have to rely on parents’ views & availability to protect themselves from a deadly virus.”
Currently, teens in California can receive vaccines for human papillomavirus and hepatitis B without parental consent. They can also make other reproductive or mental healthcare choices without a guardian signing off. Wiener argues that their medical autonomy should expand to all vaccines, especially during a pandemic that has already killed roughly 78,000 Californians.
Vaccine Consent Across the U.S.
“Teens shouldn’t have to plot, scheme or fight with their parents to get a vaccine,” he said. “They should simply be able to walk in & get vaccinated like anyone else.”
Bill 866 would allow any kids ages 12 and up to receive any vaccine approved or granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older. It has received emergency authorization for ages five through 15.
Across the United States, vaccine consent ages vary. While the vast majority of states require parental approval for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, kids as young as 11 can get the jab on their own in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, kids can receive it without parental consent at 14, in Oregon at 15, and in Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, providers can waive consent in certain cases in Arkansas, Idaho, Washington, and Tennesee.
In October, California became the first state to announce plans to require that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend class. The mandate has yet to take effect, but under the guidelines, students will be “required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span.”
In other words, once the FDA gives a vaccine full approval for those aged 12 and up, it will be required the following session for kids in grades 7-12. Once it does so for kids as young as five, the same process will happen for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. There will also be room for exemptions from the mandate.
The Fight to Vaccinate California
This week, a group of California state legislators formed a Vaccine Work Group in order to boost public health policies in the state. Wiener is among the several members who are “examining data, hearing from experts, and engaging stakeholders to determine the best approaches to promote vaccines that have been proven to reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
“Vaccines protect not only individuals but also whole communities when almost everyone is vaccinated at schools, workplaces and businesses, and safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said in a press release. “Public safety is a paramount duty of government, and I am proud to join a talented group of legislators in the pro-science Vaccine Work Group who want to end this disastrous pandemic and protect Californians from death and disability by preventable diseases.”
While vaccine policies have been a divisive subject nationwide, including in California, state politicians and leaders are hopeful public health initiatives will prevail.
“If we allow disinformation to drive our state policy making we will not only see more Americans needlessly suffer and die, but we will sacrifice the long term stability of our society having effectively abandoned the idea that we all must work together to protect each other in times of crisis.” Catherine Flores Martin, the Executive Director of the California Immunization Coalition, added.