The Rolling Stones’ song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” features the London Bach Choir and addresses the predominant themes of the 1960s — love, protest, and drugs. There’s some controversy as to whether Mr. Jimmy refers to vagrant Minnesotan Jimmy Hutmaker, who supposedly uttered the famous lyric-to-be during a chance 1964 encounter with Jagger at Bacon’s Drugstore, or Jimmy Miller, a record producer who also played drums on this track instead of Charlie Watts.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is also a suitable theme for the main problem that dominates every aspect of independent contractor misclassification. The problems is that the laws are binary. A worker is either an employee who receives all of the protections of employment laws, or an independent contractor, who receives none. The exceptions creating a middle ground have been sparse.
But if you try sometimes.
California voters tried and succeeded in creating a middle ground in 2022, when they passed Prop 22. Prop 22 guarantees independent contractor status for rideshare and delivery drivers if a series of conditions are met, and then the app companies are required to provide a range of protections for drivers, including minimum rates of pay, a health insurance stipend, accident insurance, sexual harassment prevention, safety training, and rest requirements.
Prop 22 was and is a model for the middle ground that has been missing.
But Prop 22 has also been under attack. In a case called Castellenos, the SIEU and other worker advocates have argued that Prop 22 violates the California constitution and had to be invalidated. Without Prop 22, rideshare and delivery drivers could be subjected to California’s ABC Test for determining drivers’ status.
As you may have read, a California Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that Prop 22 did not violate the California Constitution and could take effect, except for one small part of the law governing future amendments. The dispute will likely be heard by the California Supreme Court, so the fight isn’t over.
The point I want to make, though, is that Prop 22 carves out a middle ground that should be a model for other states to follow. It guarantees workers certain protections while allowing them to operate their own businesses as independent contractors.
The unions and worker advocates calling for the protection of worker rights routinely ignore the surveys showing that a vast majority of drivers prefer independent contractor status. Much of the noise on this issue is coming from a vocal minority.
The Prop 22 model is a middle ground that provides workers with protections they otherwise lack, while allowing workers to retain their preferred independent contractor status and flexibility.
We’ll continue to watch whether the California Supreme Court decides to hear this dispute but, either way, Prop 22 should be held up as a model for other states to follow, carving out a middle ground that balances the concerns of all sides. Worker status does not have to be binary. Binary laws that mandate employee or independent contractor status, with no middle ground, do not reflect the realities of the modern gig economy.
It’s time for reform.
You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find, you get what you need.
© 2023 Todd Lebowitz, posted on WhoIsMyEmployee.com, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.