Uber drivers lose California court battle over Proposition 22 messages

Oct. 29 (UPI) — California Uber drivers have lost their lawsuit alleging the company violated their rights by bombarding them with Proposition 22 messages ahead of Tuesday’s election.

California Proposition 22 is on the Nov. 3 ballot and would exempt app-based ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft from having to classify their workers as employees.

Superior Court of San Francisco Judge Richard Ulmer ruled late Wednesday against drivers’ request for a temporary restraining order blocking Uber from sending messages drivers claim were “pressuring” them to support Proposition 22. Along with seeking the injunction, the drivers also sought $260 million in penalties, alleging the company violated workers rights by sending workers “constant barrage” of messages in the app urging them to support the ballot measure, which the company supports.

Uber is “illegally exploiting its economic power over its California-based drivers by pressuring them to support the Yes on 22 campaign,” the group of gig drivers suing Uber said in a Legal Aid at Work statement.

However, Ulmer sided with the company, allowing it to continue sending pro-Proposition 22 messages to drivers in its app.

The judge dismissed the drivers’ allegations of “political coercion,” adding Uber had “free speech rights.”

Although Uber drivers have been contract workers, a new state law, Assembly Bill 5, which passed last year and took effect in January, aims to make ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, treat their workforces as employees, allowing them minimum wage, healthcare and unemployment benefits.

The new state law has prompted lawsuits with both companies threatening to leave the state.

Last week the California appellate court ruled that ride-sharing operators Uber and Lyft must consider their drivers employees, saying both companies had 30 days to comply with the state law.

Uber, Lyft and delivery companies like DoorDash and Instacart have spent nearly $200 million campaigning for support of Proposition 22.

The drivers who sued included some affiliated with labor organizing and the campaign against the measure.

Polling has shown the Proposition 22 vote is close with 39% of likely voters in support and 36% against.

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