While Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Opposed California's Prop 22, Gov. Newsom Stayed Silent

California Governor Gavin Newsom has long stayed silent on the state's controversial Proposition 22, despite President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris both opposing it.

Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies bankrolled the measure to preserve their lucrative business models and continue classifying drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees eligible for benefits like health insurance and sick pay.

Voters overwhelming approved Proposition 22 in November, which supersedes Assembly Bill 5, a landmark law that requires companies in many industries to reclassify contract workers as employees entitled to more wage protections and benefits.

The consequences of passing the measure are now being felt, after it was reported that Albertsons is laying off its full-time delivery drivers and replacing them with DoorDash gig workers.

Drivers at grocery stores including Vons, Pavilions and other subsidiaries of Albertsons are expected to lose their jobs at the end of January.

Last year California passed #AB5, affording gig workers protections and benefits like a minimum wage and overtime pay.

Now, gig economy giants are trying to gut the law and exempt their workers. It's unacceptable.

I urge Californians to vote no on the initiative this November.

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 27, 2020

Democrats, including Biden and Harris, sided with unions to oppose the measure.

Biden urged Californians to vote no on Proposition 22 and his campaign also pledged to use Assembly Bill 5 as a model for federal regulations.

"Last year California passed #AB5, affording gig workers protections and benefits like a minimum wage and overtime pay," Biden tweeted in May 2020. "Now, gig economy giants are trying to gut the law and exempt their workers. It's unacceptable."

"We cannot allow giant gig corporations to exempt themselves from providing essential protections and benefits for their workers," Harris, whose California Senate seat will be filled by Alex Padilla after she assumes the role of vice president, tweeted in July. "I urge Californians to join me in standing with these essential workers by voting NO on Prop 22."

We cannot allow giant gig corporations to exempt themselves from providing essential protections and benefits for their workers. I urge Californians to join me in standing with these essential workers by voting NO on Prop 22.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) July 3, 2020

But Newsom stayed neutral for months—and declined to tell reporters how he voted.

The Sacramento Bee said Newsom spoke with reporters after voting early in October last year, but he didn't want to reveal how he voted because he may need to broker negotiations over gig worker classification in the future.

The governor had unsuccessfully urged a compromise between the app-based companies and labor unions during deliberations over Assembly Bill 5 in 2019.

He later cited the failed effort as his reason for remaining neutral on Proposition 22.

"We led that effort, fell short and I want to position ourselves, as it relates to this issue, in a position where we can accommodate—if there is a need, a desire—to seek some compromise on this issue," Newsom said. "So that's why we maintained that position publicly."

But Newsom's ties to the tech industry may have played a part in his decision to remain neutral.

"There are no two constituencies more important to Gavin Newsom than tech and labor," Nathan Ballard, a former advisor to Newsom when he was the mayor of San Francisco, said.

"He really believes down to his bones in the labor movement and he is also very much a peer of the tech industry's leaders."

Newsom's office has been contacted for comment.

Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a a news conference on January 16, 2020 in Oakland, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images