The judge ruled that Uber and Lyft’s Proposition 22 is unconstitutional

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    James Martin / CNET

    A California judge ruled Friday that Proposition 22, a measure passed by voters last year that would allow Uber, Lyft and other gig companies to class workers as independent contractors rather than salaried employees, was against the state’s constitution violates.

    Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled that the law inappropriately limits the state government’s ability to set standards for the workplace. Roesch declared the law unconstitutional, writing that Proposition 22 “restricts the power of a future legislator to define app-based drivers as employees subject to the Employee Accident Act”.

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    The decision calls into question the fate of Proposition 22, a law passed last November after Uber, Lyft and other gig economy companies poured out more than $ 200 million into a campaign calling on voters to support the measure. The law is likely to remain in effect while awaited appeals progress through the judicial system.

    Gig companies started Proposition 22 because treating drivers, deliverers, and other gig employees as employees would add a huge cost to their business operations. The proposal created an alternative that left gig workers as independent contractors but gave them some benefits such as reimbursement and a health care grant.

    “This ruling ignores the will of California voters and is contrary to both logic and the law,” an Uber spokesman said in a statement. The company will appeal the ruling, the spokesman said.

    DoorDash, which also supported Proposition 22 campaign, said its workers have earned more and received new benefits since the law was passed. Lyft and Instacart, another backer, passed inquiries to the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Coalition, a group that represents gig companies. The group announced that it would appeal immediately. Postmates, another proponent, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The California move has nationwide implications. Uber and other gig economy firms are currently pushing a similar vote in Massachusetts.

    Companies argue that their drivers prefer the flexibility of being their own bosses. Opponents say, however, that drivers need the type of pay and protection that come with full employee status, and that such classification does not preclude flexibility.

    In the legal dispute that led to Roesch’s judgment, a group of ride hail riders, along with the Service Employees International Union argued that Proposition 22 hinders California’s ability to protect gig workers through safeguards such as employee compensation and the right to organize.

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