The antitrust case against gig companies

Either they’re violating employment law, or they’re violating antitrust.

Cory Doctorow


EFF’s Competition banner, depicting a below-the-neck image of a giant in a business suit holding a basketball under one arm while resting his elbow on the basket of a basketball hoop. Two irate, normal-sized people glare at him from the side. Image: EFF CC BY 3.0:

Gig work companies like Uber and Doordash are committed to misclassifying their workers as contractors, which lets them escape employer obligations like a minimum wage, health care or worker’s comp (driving for Uber/Lyft is one of the most dangerous jobs in America).

These companies spent $225m to pass California’s Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that formalized worker misclassification, paving the way for all kinds of companies to convert employees to contractors at the stroke of a pen:

Hilariously, all that money was wasted. Prop 22 was unconstitutional (it usurped the California Assembly’s constitutionally mandated duty to establish universal worker’s comp), and it was (idiotically) drafted such that if any clause was struck the whole thing would go out the window:

But they’ll try again — they already are, in Massachusetts, where the same companies have already poured $100m into “the East Coast’s Prop 22”:

As venture capital ghoul Shawn Carolan bragged after Prop 22 passed, the point is to create a future in which all labor rights — for nurses, teachers, and all other workers — are incinerated, leaving behind a brittle residue that workers won’t be able to rely on:

Labor groups have (rightly) focused on strengthening labor rights so they can fend off these attacks. But in a superbly argued new article for the Law and Political Economy Project, Marshall Steinbaum points out another, devastating weapon to fight off gig companies: antitrust law:

When we think of antitrust law, we usually focus on the way dominant companies abuse their customers…