LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – This November, California voters will decide whether drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft should be classified as freelancers or employees.

Uber and Lyft drivers with Rideshare Drivers United and the
 Transport Workers Union of America conduct a ‘caravan protest’ outside the California Labor Commissioner’s office amidst the coronavirus pandemic on April 16, 2020 in Los Angeles. The drivers called for California to enforce the AB 5 law so that they may qualify for unemployment insurance as the spread of COVID-19 continues. Drivers also called for receiving back wages they say they are owed. (Getty Images)

Last September, the California Legislature passed the controversial Assembly Bill 5, a law which requires companies who employ gig workers, such as rideshare drivers, to reclassify them as employees, affording them benefits including minimum wage, overtime and unemployment insurance.

An initiative that would overturn specific provisions of AB5, specifically relating to app-based drivers, qualified for the November ballot, the California Secretary of State announced Friday.

Under the initiative, instead of being categorized as employees, drivers for app-based companies would be provided with “alternative benefits,” including a guaranteed minimum level of pay and healthcare subsidies, all based on how much they drive. It would also restrict local regulation of app-based drivers, criminalize impersonation of such drivers and require background checks.

The initiative has received serious financial backing from the likes of Uber, Lyft and DoorDash. The companies argue that being forced to reclassifying their drivers as employees would force them to lay off thousands of drivers because they simply couldn’t afford to keep them on. Uber has already begun to increase prices for passengers in response.

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Earlier this month, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco sued Uber and Lyft for refusing to reclassify their drivers as employees despite the passage of AB5, which took effect in January.

To get on the ballot, the initiative required 623,212 valid signatures from registered voters, or 5% of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2018 General Election. It needed at least 685,534 projected valid signatures to become eligible by random sampling. It exceeded that threshold Friday, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced.

A measure can become eligible via random sampling of petition signatures if the sampling projects that the number of valid signatures is greater than 110% of the required number.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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