RSG150: Kate Conger on What We Learned From Prop 22

$200 million – that’s how much gig companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash and others spent to get Proposition 22 passed in California. In today’s episode, I’m talking with Kate Conger of The New York Times about why this proposition was so important and what it means for drivers.

Have you heard of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)? If you’re an independent contractor (like many rideshare and delivery drivers are), you might qualify for this tax credit! Learn more about how RSG contributor Joe P. received a $19,000 tax credit with the ERC here and see if you qualify for the credit here.

Watch my full interview with Kate here: Kate Conger on What We Learned From Prop 22

Intro to Kate Conger

  • Technology writer for the NYTimes
  • Covers the rideshare sector and has been following Prop 22 closely
  • Based out of San Francisco
  • Outcome of Prop 22 did not surprise her

How Has COVID Impacted This Discussion

  • Drivers will be looking out to see promises kept – especially when it comes to health care
  • Unemployment fund – businesses pay into this
  • From state’s perspective, Uber and Lyft are skimming
  • Drivers got the best of both worlds, but not sustainable

Why Did Prop 22 Succeed?

  • Money was a big factor
  • Wildly differing claims for Yes vs No – both sides leaned into the extreme scenarios
  • Competing information – it was actually hard to follow even as someone who follows this closely!
  • It was undeniable that some drivers would be cut, but never got to the bottom of what that would look like
  • Having access to driver and passenger info was a big factor, too

Messaging Against Prop 22

  • Full-time drivers keep gig companies afloat
  • There wasn’t enough of a conversation about the full-time drivers
  • FT drivers do want better benefits, but that messaging is more difficult to get out
  • Everyone got caught up in polling and surveys, but didn’t follow the narrative through – what are these surveys actually saying? Don’t get distracted by one survey

What Drivers Want vs. Legislation

  • What drivers want may be one thing, but it conflicts with current labor laws
  • There was an opportunity 5-6 years ago to fix this problem, didn’t happen
  • Clearly there is support for the IC model – why are legislators working against that? Competing constituencies
  • Adding the 7/8 voting requirement was kind of gross – writing your own laws

Prop 22: Going Nationwide?

  • Other states are looking into something like AB5 – waited to see how it played out in CA
  • Some states already have AB5 laws in their books – like MA
  • From the gig companies’ perspectives, they don’t want to keep spending $200M – looking to get this figured out at the federal level
  • Incoming admin (Biden/Harris) could prove challenging

Did Labor Lose?

  • Organizing aspect was interesting – no one represents independent contractors
  • Unions may be looking at gig workers as potential members, but right now ICs are floating
  • There is some casual organizing (Gig Workers Rising, etc.) but those are informal groups
  • Labor now may be more willing to negotiate a deal


  • Thanks to Kate for coming on the podcast – this won’t be the last time we talk about Prop 22!
  • There were a lot of lessons learned for both sides of the Prop 22 debate – gig companies ‘won’ but there are still things they could do better
  • One comment that resounded with me: there are no drivers at the table in these discussions!
  • That’s one reason we do driver surveys – what do you think as a driver about these topics? What solutions do you want to see?

Show Notes