Latino and Black advocates are at the center of an expensive campaign against a new California labor law requiring employers to benefit more workers.

In one corner stand the various unions that were in favor of the Labor Code known as Assembly Bill 5 when legislature debated it and Governor Gavin Newsom signed it last year. They say the new lawmakers are giving all workers a better opportunity to earn a living wage and move forward.

On the flip side, a collection of black and Latino stakeholders have teamed up with Silicon Valley giants to promote an initiative to exempt app-based drivers from the law for companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash.

Groups working with the tech companies for Proposition 22 include the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which usually sided with employers, and the National Action Network, the civil rights group founded by Rev. Al Sharpton. They argue that the initiative would give drivers the freedom and flexibility to set their own schedules and earn a living as independent contractors.

"One of the things we are finding is that this gives our communities the opportunity to work when they want to work at the level and intensity they want to work at," said Julian Canete, president of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce in California.

His group is one of the Latin American, Black, and Asian American organizations that appear in advertisements and send letters to elected officials asking for exemptions from the labor law. The same groups were also sponsored by Uber and Lyft earlier this year, who announced charitable contributions to ethnic communities affected by the coronavirus outbreak and advocating social justice.

Veena Dubal, a law professor at UC Hastings and a critic of Proposition 22, said the role of civil rights organizations in the campaign was a well-known theme in tech companies' efforts to fight regulation across the country. For example, you were part of a 2018 campaign against a New York ordinance.

"It is a policy tactic that these companies are using to ally with more mainstream organizations," Dubal said.

The dispute over the initiative is one-sided, at least in terms of political spending. Proposition 22 proponents have raised over $ 110 million in contributions from tech companies, according to campaign funding records. Proposition 22 opponents raised about $ 2 million, mostly from unions and the Chan Zuckerberg initiative.

So far, companies are not paying driver wages and benefits as attorneys when pushing for the new labor law, and Governor Gavin Newsom's government is suing them for compelling them to comply with AB 5. The democratic legislators also remain committed to the new law.

Senator Maria Elena Durazo from Los Angeles D said the passage of Proposition 22 would allow the mistreatment of low-wage workers.

“It has to be corrected. There are people who don't understand the history of the misclassification and don't understand the depth of the abuse of independent contractor classification, ”she said. "You made it seem like … an opportunity to make a lot of money."

What are the ads saying?

Black and Latino civil rights groups are prominently featured in ads on Facebook and in minority-owned newspapers.

"AB5 … would limit the availability of these services, leading to lost job opportunities and limited access to ride-sharing and delivery services that many minority communities rely on," said an ad quoting the National Black Chamber of Commerce .

Another ad from the same campaign highlights a statement by Tecoy Porter, chairman of the California State National Action Network, published July 27 in the Sacramento Observer, an African American-owned weekly newspaper.

"Prop 22 protects the choice of more than a million Californians to work as independent contractors with app-based ridesharing and delivery platforms – and saves those jobs that are critical to so many in our community," Porter wrote.

Last month, a number of organizations advocating for ethnic communities, such as the California state NAACP and the Si Se Puede Foundation, sent a letter to California elected officials in support of Proposition 22. They promoted gig companies as a “low-barrier way” to earn income for those who often find traditional employment difficult. "

“These are easy jobs. You don't need degrees. You don't need a lot of training, ”said Porter. "You start making money very quickly."

What about workers?

A 2019 Lyft analysis found that 31% of the 300,000 Lyft drivers in California identify as Latino. African Americans make up 10%. In Los Angeles, Latinos make up 40% of Lyft drivers. Both Uber and Lyft say the majority of their drivers want to maintain independent status.

Labor advocates campaigned for AB 5 with the help of gig drivers who wanted better wages, benefits and union representation. Your allies claim workers are better off with the new law.

Mike Roth, spokesman for the No on Prop 22 campaign, described the initiative as a "cynical" attempt by Uber, Lyft and Doordash to buy a bill.

"What we know about these workers is that they are mostly colored people and immigrants," said Roth, a political advisor whose clients include SEIU and the unions that support AB5. "It is cynical to ask voters to create a separate, unequal class of workers who are denied the basic protection in the workplace that all other workers enjoy."

Nourbese Flint, executive director of the South Los Angeles-based Black Women for Wellness action project, spoke out against Proposition 22, saying the companies hadn't given a full picture of how this would affect drivers.

"It's not good for people with color," said Flint.

A study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center estimates that if Proposition 22 is passed, drivers will earn $ 5.64 an hour. When independent contractor drivers switch to employee status, they earn at least a minimum wage of $ 13 an hour.

On its website, the Yes To Prop 22 campaign estimates that drivers are paid at least 120% of the minimum wage, which is $ 15.6 an hour. plus a compensation of 30 cents per mile.

Help us cover the topics that matter most to you through The Sacramento Bee's partnership with Report for America. Now, help support Kim Bojórquez 'coverage of Latino issues in California for the Capitol Bureau – and fund new reporters.

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Kim Bojórquez joined The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Bureau as a member of the Corps of America Corps in 2020. She reports on Latino communities in California. Prior to joining The Bee, she worked for Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

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