Judge denies request to stop Uber from pushing pro-Prop 22 messages to drivers

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,631   +614
Staff member
In context: Should ride-sharing drivers be considered contractors or employees? It is a question hotly debated and contested in the courts, especially in Califonia. As it stands at the moment, Uber and lift will have to classify drivers as employees at the first of the year, but Proposition 22 could change that ruling.

A judge says Uber can continue to spam messages to its drivers, urging them to vote yes on California Prop 22. Last week, Uber drivers in the state filed a class-action lawsuit against the company asking for injunctive relief regarding the campaigning being conducted through the Uber app.

In a decision rendered Wednesday afternoon, California Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer denied the temporary restraining order saying that plaintiffs waited too long to file the complaint. He also wrote that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would violate Uber's "freedom of speech."

"According to plaintiffs, Uber's driver app campaign began in August. Why plaintiffs waited months to sue and seek injunctive relief is not explained, and such delay casts doubt on their case…Temporary restraining orders that 'forbid speech activities' are 'classic examples of prior restraints,' and are 'the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment Rights.'"

Proposition 22 goes in front of California voters on November 3, making the case a "moot point" in Ulmer's opinion since a couple of weeks is not enough time to hear the case. At the first of the year, Uber and Lyft will be required to classify their drivers as employees under California AB5 passed last year. If Prop 22 passes, it will effectively nullify AB5 where ride sharing is concerned.

Drivers initially filed the class action because they felt the language in the messages seemed retaliatory—that if they did not support the measure, Uber would fire them. Plaintiff lawyers see Judge Ulmer's decision as a win even though it did not go their way.

Almost immediately after filing the lawsuit, Uber ended its Prop 22 campaign. An unnamed Uber executive also vowed in a sworn declaration that the company would not take any action against drivers who are opposed to 22.

"That's pretty great, and I'm happy about that," said David Lowe, one of the attorneys representing the drivers. "We accomplished two of the main goals of the lawsuit."

Image credit: Mozco Mateusz Szymanski

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Uncle Al

Posts: 7,582   +6,101
Sorry but I disagree. Individuals have rights to free speech protection, not corporations. Corporations have the right to practice free enterprise in an open marketplace but that's where it should end, otherwise the larger the corporation, the larger the influence and influence should begin and end at the individual level.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,027   +869
Sorry but I disagree. Individuals have rights to free speech protection, not corporations.
A corporation is nothing but a group of individuals. Should organizations like the Democratic Party, say, or Planned Parenthood, not have freedom of speech, because they're not strictly individuals?
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 7,582   +6,101
A corporation is nothing but a group of individuals. Should organizations like the Democratic Party, say, or Planned Parenthood, not have freedom of speech, because they're not strictly individuals?
That is correct. Individuals are not prohibited from free speech but because a corporation has very large financial value that can be used to influence, it's free speech value should be limited so it cannot talk over the individual. While the difference is subtle, it clearly exists.
 
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Endymio

Posts: 1,027   +869
That is correct. Individuals are not prohibited from free speech but because a corporation has very large financial value that can be used to influence, it's free speech value should be limited so it cannot talk over the individual.
You're now on record as saying the DNC does not have a right to free speech. Also, by your logic, even individuals with a "large financial value" should have their free speech limited. And what of tiny corporations with near-zero or even negative value? Does that mean they get unlimited speech, whereas only the large ones do not? Finally, you have yet to explain how Uber sending a communication to its drivers is preventing those drivers from hearing opposing points of view.
 

SalaSSin

Posts: 177   +117
You're now on record as saying the DNC does not have a right to free speech. Also, by your logic, even individuals with a "large financial value" should have their free speech limited. And what of tiny corporations with near-zero or even negative value? Does that mean they get unlimited speech, whereas only the large ones do not? Finally, you have yet to explain how Uber sending a communication to its drivers is preventing those drivers from hearing opposing points of view.
If I'm not mistaken (not a US citizen here), there is a legal difference between a corporation and a political party? At least in Europe there is.

Apart from that, a corporation is not a "natural person" (legal entity in Belgium for a flesh & blood person), so why would it have freedom of "speech" (it doesn't have the power of speech, as it doesn't have vocal chords)?

Disclaimer: IANAL, so I might be totally wrong here :)
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,027   +869
If I'm not mistaken (not a US citizen here), there is a legal difference between a corporation and a political party? At least in Europe there is.

Apart from that, a corporation is not a "natural person" (legal entity in Belgium for a flesh & blood person), so why would it have freedom of "speech" (it doesn't have the power of speech, as it doesn't have vocal chords)?
You raise some good points, but the poster to whom I was replying was making a moral-philosophic argument, not a legal one. For the legal argument in the US, there is the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision, which determined (rightly so, in my opinion) that corporate spending for political purposes was protected speech.

As for the "lack of vocal cords" argument, that fails also when applied to a person born mute, or to a person speaking via written communications, and these have both long been considered protected speech as well.
 
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