politics

Gig companies break $200M barrier in California ballot fight






A Lyft ride-share car waits at a stoplight in Sacramento, Calif. | Rich Pedroncelli, File/AP

OAKLAND — California officially has its first $200 million ballot campaign, courtesy of the homegrown tech industry.

Proposition 22 always figured to be an enormously expensive fight. Five gig economy firms invested $110 million just at the outset of their effort to exempt themselves from a new state law that could force them to treat app-summoned workers as employees rather than contractors.

The campaign has lived up to those expectations. A late October $3.75 million outlay from DoorDash pushed proponents’ fundraising total to roughly $203 million. Virtually all of that has come from five companies trying to preserve their contractor-reliant business models: Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Instacart and DoorDash.

The implications: The Prop 22 campaign has always been a financial mismatch. While organized labor wields significant sway in California politics, the union-driven opposition campaign has pulled in about $20 million. That used to be a decent sum in California ballot campaigns, but is merely one-tenth of what their opponents have committed.

Despite those lopsided numbers, which have helped the yes side saturate California’s airwaves, polling suggests Prop 22 could fail. A Berkeley IGS poll this month found the measure short of a majority, claiming support from 46 percent of likely voters.

The bigger context: Before this, the fundraising record for a single side of an initiative campaign was the roughly $111 million kidney dialysis companies spent in 2018 to beat back Proposition 8. The tech industry was poised to shatter that from the start.



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