This week, the state of California filed a lawsuit against ride-share companies Uber and Lyft. The lawsuit claims these gig companies are misclassifying workers as independent contractors under the state’s AB5 law. The suit was filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra; city attorneys from San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego joined in.
Since unions can’t directly organize independent contractors, they’ve supported laws like AB5 that would reclassify thousands of these workers as employees. This lawsuit is just the next step in the battle these unions, and their conduits, are waging to organize the fast-growing gig economy. (At WorkerCenters.com, we’ve mapped the coordination between labor unions, the 501c4 groups they fund, and organizations such as the Gig Workers Collective.)
It’s no wonder whose side these attorneys are on — each one involved in the suit against Uber and Lyft has a history of financial backing from labor unions.
Let’s start with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Before he became AG, Becerra had a long stint as a Congressman. According to FEC filings and data available on OpenSecrets.org, Becerra received a total of $129,000 from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) during his time in the House of Representatives.
During his run for AG, UFCW PACs donated a total of $59,700 to Becerra, including donations to his 2022 campaign. A list of re-election endorsements from UFCW leaders (below) speaks to Becerra’s popularity with the union. (It’s worth noting that the UFCW is one of the key unions funding Working Washington — a worker center dedicated to organizing workers in the gig economy.)
This is in addition to the thousands Becerra has received from other labor unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Teamsters.
Across his campaigns for San Francisco city attorney, Dennis Herrera has received $17,000 from labor unions, including the IBEW, Teamsters, and the Transport Workers Union of America. Similarly, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Fueur has received over $10,000 from labor unions during his campaigns for city attorney, including donations from the SEIU and the Los Angeles Building and Construction Trades Council.
San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, who filed her own lawsuit against a gig company last year, received $162,407 in independent expenditures from labor unions during her 2016 campaign. She also received over $20,000 from Policy Action PAC (shown below)– a PAC that received $5,000 from SEIU Local 221 that same year. Unions also spent $28,001 in independent expenditures against Elliott’s opponent. So far, Elliott’s 2020 campaign has been endorsed by the Democratic Party of San Diego and the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, which receive significant support from UFCW locals.
Union’s have spent big to support their friends in high places, and it looks like their efforts are paying off. But AB5 has already cost thousands of workers their jobs in California. During the coronavirus pandemic — when millions have found themselves unemployed — is going after one of the few industries that’s still hiring really what’s best for workers?