Newsday: Will California ‘pave the road’ for NY gig workers?

While most eyes across the country were on battleground states like Arizona and Georgia on Election Day and the days that followed, some watchers were paying attention to a particular proposition on California’s ballot, which could have implications for other states, including New York.

Last week, California voters approved Proposition 22, which allows gig economy workers to continue serving as independent contractors, rather than becoming employees of firms like DoorDash, Uber and Lyft. The proposition, which exempts such workers from state labor law, includes the promise of some additional benefits and wage standards.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had begun discussions on how to handle gig workers, with initial plans to include legislation in the state budget. And despite talk of a compromise in the air, nothing was resolved before COVID-19 shut everything down.

Now, some observers tell The Point they hope the California decision will point the way to a similar resolution in New York, where gig workers could maintain their independent contractor status, but be granted additional rights and benefits.

“This is a time for New Yorkers to see that even if you’re a Democrat, even if you’re a progressive Democrat, you should be assured that if you listen to workers and do what they want, it’s actually the popular way to go,” one source close to the issue told The Point.

Sources said they expect New York lawmakers to take the California vote into consideration when they return to Albany for their next session and consider gig economy legislation.

But New Yorkers also might be keeping an eye on the election aftermath in California, too. Worker and labor groups who opposed the California measure are already analyzing the proposition, to consider whether there are court challenges to be made ahead.

The answer, sources told The Point, might lie in finding a way to a compromise between ride-sharing companies and labor leaders first, to come up with legislation both could agree to, rather than fighting a Capitol battle.

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