Presidential election undecided, but state voters OK independent contractor status, marijuana usage and minimum wage


The US presidential election remains undecided with votes still being tallied in several key states as of press time. It’s unclear when the final results for these states will be available and what the impact of any legal challenges will be. However, more was at stake in Tuesday’s election at the state level with voters weighing minimum wage and marijuana usage. In addition, independent contractor usage got a boost in California.

IC status. Voters in California approved a statewide ballot measure, Proposition 22, that allows human cloud, gig economy firms — including Uber Technologies Inc. (NYSE: UBER) and Lyft Inc. (NASDAQ: LYFT) — to continue classifying their drivers as independent contractors.

Uber and Lyft had been engaged in a court battle with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who sued the human cloud firms saying they were misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors under California’s AB 5 law that gets tough on misclassification.

Backers of the measure, which included Uber and Lyft, spent more than $220 million to get it passed, The (San Jose, California) Mercury News newspaper reported.

Proposition 22’s passage was described as a big win for the companies.

“With Proposition 22, the California electorate has effectively classified ride share drivers as a legal category of gig economy independent contractors, a major win for companies such as Uber and Lyft,” said Jesse Jauregui, partner in law firm Alston & Bird’s Labor & Employment Group.

“Legal push-back may continue, but Proposition 22 sets the tone for other states to follow in recognizing gig workers as a central part of today’s economy and the future of work,” Jauregui said. “Proposition 22 is pointing to a new ‘third way’ of structuring the nature of work and may become the model for other gig workforces to follow.”

Minimum wage. In Florida, voters approved an amendment to raise that state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The National Federation of Business had opposed Florida’s increase.

“Just throw another one on. We’ll see if the camel’s back breaks,” Bill Herrle, NFIB state executive director for Florida, said in a statement. “This has been a very difficult year for our members, and this amendment is going to make 2021 more challenging.”

The amendment will raise Florida’s minimum wage to $10 an hour in September from $8.56 an hour today, according to the organization. Then it will raise the minimum wage by to $1 per year until it reaches $15 in 2026.

Legalized marijuana. Election day also saw four states legalize recreational use of marijuana. The states included Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota, The Hill reported. In Oregon, voters approved the decriminalization of harder street drugs, including heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine.

Some business groups had voiced opposition to such measures.

“We know Montana businesses were turning down growth opportunities earlier this year due to the inability to recruit a trained, motivated, and appropriately educated workforce,” Todd O’Hair, Montana Chamber president and CEO, said in a statement on Oct. 8. “Despite higher-than-normal unemployment rates in Montana due to Covid-19, the underlying challenges to recruiting and retaining a quality workforce remain. Legalizing recreational marijuana seems to add another layer to the challenge.”