Uber, Lyft and DoorDash threatened Thursday to spend $90 million on a California ballot measure if they can't reach a deal with unions and lawmakers on legislation that would change the rights of their drivers and other so-called gig workers.
"We remain focused on reaching a deal, and are confident about bringing this issue to the voters if necessary," Adrian Durbin, senior director of communications at Lyft, said in a statement.
The companies' team-up comes as California lawmakers debate a bill that would make it harder to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees. As employees, workers are entitled to more wage protections and benefits.
But the ride-sharing and on-demand delivery companies say labeling workers as such would upend their business model built around driver flexibility.
The California Labor Federation, which sponsored the bill, quickly vowed to fight a ballot measure.
"We will meet the gig companies' absurd political spending with a vigorous worker-led campaign to defeat this measure to ensure working people have the basic job protections and the right to organize a union they deserve under the law," said Steve Smith, the federation's spokesman.
The companies say they would skip the ballot if they can reach a deal with Gov. Gavin Newsom and unions on a new piece of legislation that sets separate rules for drivers who work "gig" jobs.
This isn't the first time an industry has pressured lawmakers to act by dangling the prospect of a long and costly ballot fight. Last year, beverage companies, the paint industry and a wealthy developer all withdrew initiatives at the last minute after striking deals with lawmakers.
The legislation faces a vote Friday in a key state Senate committee. California's law would be the strictest on worker classification in the nation and potentially set a precedent for other states to follow, increasing the pressure on the companies.
Durbin and Davis White, of Uber, said the companies have agreed to set a base hourly wage of $21 for drivers, to pay into a fund that drivers could tap for portable benefits and to establish sectoral bargaining. That would allow drivers who work for various companies to bargain together.
DoorDash's statement says the company supports a minimum pay standard, occupational accident insurance and protection from discrimination, but did not mention collective bargaining rights.
Proposed text for the ballot measure has not been released.
Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the author of the bill on worker misclassification, suggested the campaign was hypocritical.
"Billionaires who say they can't pay minimum wages to their workers say they will spend tens of millions to avoid labor laws," she tweeted.
Nathan Click, a spokesman for Newsom, declined to comment.