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Uber, Lyft win California bid to keep drivers as contractors

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Gig economy giants including Uber Technologies, Lyft and DoorDash have won their effort to pass a hotly contested ballot measure that will exempt the companies from a state law requiring them to classify most of their workers as employees.

[SAN FRANCISCO] Gig economy giants including Uber Technologies, Lyft and DoorDash have won their effort to pass a hotly contested ballot measure that will exempt the companies from a state law requiring them to classify most of their workers as employees.

Uber and Lyft soared more than 14 per cent in pre-market trade after California voters, in the most expensive ballot initiative in state history, approved a ballot measure exempting gig-economy companies from the state labour law known as AB 5.

Almost 58 per cent of voters were supporting the proposition versus 42 per cent against, with more than 80 per cent of the vote reported, according to the California Secretary of State's Office.

Drivers for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and their ilk will receive some new corporate perks but won't be eligible for full employment benefits and protections as lawmakers had intended. Uber and Lyft alone will save more than US$100 million a year on employment costs, according to one estimate.

The measure, Proposition 22, was critical for the ride-hailing industry in California and beyond. At stake in the vote was the future of these app-based work platforms, which use armies of independent contractors to deliver takeout and ferry passengers across town.

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This fight's importance was reflected in the ballot initiative's financial contributions. DoorDash, Instacart, Lyft, Postmates and Uber together spent US$200 million on the campaign, making it the costliest ballot measure in state history. The "No on 22" camp, which was mostly funded by labour unions, only ever raised about a 10th as much.

The measure's approval means gig companies can continue using independent contractors to power their services. The workers will receive a new set of benefits, like a health insurance stipend and minimum hourly earnings, based on the number of hours they are actively working but not the hours spent waiting for each gig.

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