RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
One clear winner in this week's election, the ride-hailing industry. We're talking about companies like Uber and Lyft. California voters backed a measure that means those companies don't have to hire their drivers as employees. That cements their business models. NPR's Shannon Bond has this report. And we should note, Uber and Lyft are among NPR's financial supporters.
SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: It's been hard to escape messages promoting the ballot measure known as Proposition 22 here in California, like this ad featuring drivers for Lyft and Uber talking about why they support the measure.
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UNIDENTIFIED RIDE-SHARE DRIVER #1: App-based driving works for my family.
UNIDENTIFIED RIDE-SHARE DRIVER #2: Drivers want to stay independent contractors.
UNIDENTIFIED RIDE-SHARE DRIVER #3: Prop 22 protects our flexibility.
UNIDENTIFIED RIDE-SHARE DRIVER #4: And offers wage guarantees...
UNIDENTIFIED RIDE-SHARE DRIVER #5: And health care benefits...
UNIDENTIFIED RIDE-SHARE DRIVER #6: Vote yes on Prop 22.
BOND: Ads like this blanketed the state. They came by text, on fliers in mailboxes, even on delivery bags when you ordered takeout. Uber, Lyft and the food delivery app DoorDash spent more than $200 million in support of Proposition 22, making it the most expensive ballot measure campaign in California history. And it worked. Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure. For Joe Renice, who drives for Uber in San Francisco, that's a relief.
JOE RENICE: This is a job that I make over $100,000 a year doing. And I have complete and total freedom and flexibility to do that.
BOND: Renice's view is one the companies say a majority of drivers share. Renice says flexibility is the most important thing to him.
RENICE: We know going in, this is a trade-off. I'm trading a salary. I'm trading 401(k). I'm trading insurance for the ability to do this when and where and how I want to do it. It's not for everybody. Some people are better off being employees, not me.
BOND: But not all drivers agree.
JEROME GAGE: Drivers are being taken advantage of, and Prop 22 was really just an attempt by Uber and Lyft to legalize it.
BOND: Jerome Gage is a Lyft driver in Los Angeles who worked on the campaign opposing the measure. He and other opponents say the company's emphasis on flexibility is a distraction since nothing in the state labor law requires them to set schedules for drivers.
GAGE: So now drivers, now more than ever, need to organize and improve our working conditions.
BOND: Labor groups fought hard against the ballot measure. They say the companies are trying to get special treatment so they can avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits like other employers. Gage says the election results are a blow - but the work of organizing will continue.
GAGE: My pride is hurt. But one thing that has been inspiring me is the energy in this grassroots-level effort to fight Uber and Lyft.
BOND: And the ballot measure is not a total loss. It does mandate the companies provide some new benefits for drivers, including a stipend to buy health insurance and guarantee of some pay. Organizers say they'll keep pushing for more protections, and they're looking beyond California to other states that are facing off with Uber and Lyft over whether drivers are employees.
Shannon Bond, NPR News, Berkeley.
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