If Passed, Proposition 22 Will Be Bad for Drivers, Air Quality and Climate

Opposition Statement by Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club California and Natural Resources Defense Council

Published Oct 28, 2020

OAKLAND, Calif. (October 28, 2020)—Science and environmental groups in California are advocating against Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that would exempt ride-hailing companies from a California Supreme Court ruling that classified app drivers as employees, rather than contractors. If voters reject the proposition, it will ensure gig workers are paid a living wage and receive the benefits and security of employment.

If the ballot initiative passes and drivers are not recognized as employees, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Sierra Club California and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) say ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft will continue to unfairly shift corporate responsibilities to their drivers, including filing taxes and purchasing health coverage. In addition, because state regulators are reluctant to saddle drivers with the costs of forthcoming regulations that require the ride-hailing industry to reduce its global warming pollution, the groups say the industry will be slow to take climate action and contribute to air quality improvements.

In a recent report, UCS found the growth of ride-hailing services is increasing global warming pollution, as ride-hailing trips create nearly 70 percent more climate pollution on average than the trips they displace. UCS also found that a ride-hailing trip in an electric vehicle can cut emissions by half compared to the average private car trip.

Statements from UCS, Sierra Club California and NRDC are below.

“Ride-hailing can’t be sustainable unless both workers and the environment are protected,” said Adrienne Alvord, Western States director at UCS. “By making public commitments this year to electrify their fleets by 2030, Uber and Lyft signaled they understand their industry’s growth poses climate risks, and that it is in their power to reduce those risks. Yet their continued exploitation of drivers and overwhelming effort to prevent them from receiving employee protections undermines any environmental progress they might make. Proposition 22 perpetuates a business model that makes it more difficult to transition to a clean transportation system and could hamstring future efforts to clean up ride-hailing. The ride-hailing companies must take responsibility for the global warming and air pollution they create. Vote no on Proposition 22.”

“Uber and Lyft need to change their ways,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. “By refusing to allow workers to be considered employees, they are creating a system that makes sure the companies can't be held responsible for the pollution of their vehicles. And, on top of that, they’re creating unfair working conditions and low wages, so we Californians end up with more pollution and more hardworking people living in poverty. Voting NO on Prop 22 will help make sure workers and the environment aren’t exploited by gig companies.”

“Prop 22 would change current law and undermine basic protections like paid sick leave, minimum wage and overtime pay for workers misclassified as contractors,” said Victoria Rome, California government affairs director at NRDC. “We can’t have a race to the bottom by allowing the ride-hailing industry to have a special carve-out from labor protections or environmental standards by shifting these costs onto the backs of workers. Vote No on Prop 22.”