News & Commentary

March 15, 2023

Jacqueline Rayfield

Jacqueline Rayfield is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary, a California appeals court reversed a lower court ruling on Proposition 22, the Michigan Senate voted to repeal a 2012 right-to-work law restricting labor organizing, and American Airlines pilots authorized a strike vote.

On Monday, a California appeals court found that parts of Proposition 22 should remain law. Proposition 22 provided that gig economy workers like Uber and Lyft drivers should be classified as independent contractors and therefore provided limited employment benefits compared to traditional employees. Under a gig model, Lyft and Uber are not required to provide drivers with unemployment insurance, health insurance, or business expenses. This proposition passed as a ballot measure in 2020 after gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft spent $200 million promoting the measure to pass.

The appeals court found that a piece of the proposition limiting the possibility for collective bargaining right violated separation of powers and should be severed from the rest of the bill. The court upheld portions of the proposition limiting legislative oversight of the gig economy. While Uber’s chief legal officer hailed this decision as a “victory for app based workers,” the Service Employees International Union raised concerns about growing corporate influence in California politics. One dissenting judge in Monday’s decision argued that the entire proposition should be invalidated. Read the full decision here.

The Michigan Senate approved a bill on Tuesday repealing the state’s right-to-work law. The original right-to-work bill passed in 2012 when Republicans held both House and Senate. Now, with Democrats controlling Michigan’s House and Senate for the first time in 40 years, Democrats are poised to repeal the 2012 legislation. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, also a Democrat, has promised to sign the bill if it makes its way to her desk. While the House has already passed its own version of the bill, both chambers must agree on language for the final version.

Finally, American Airlines pilots set a strike authorization vote for April 2023. This vote follows Delta Airlines pilots ratifying a new contract earlier this month including $7 billion in total pay and benefits increases. American Airlines’ executives have expressed willingness to match the pay increase from Delta in their own contract negotiations.

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