On October 30, Fox News’ Special Report shilled for rideshare and other app-based companies, such as Uber and Lyft, by airing a biased segment on California’s Prop 22, a ballot initiative the National Employment Law Project and the Partnership for Working Families have called “regressive and deeply harmful.”
As of October 27, the app-based companies have spent roughly $200 million in their campaign to promote Prop 22, a ballot measure that is trying to override a new California law that classifies their workers as employees rather than contractors. If passed, Prop 22 would deny workers paid family leave, unemployment compensation, paid sick days, and the right to organize. It would also limit worker’s compensation, disability insurance, and health insurance, in addition to the loss of many more employee protections.
Polls show that drivers support Prop 22 for the flexibility it seems to offer. But Robert Reich, a former U.S. secretary of labor and a public policy professor, points out that, of the two surveys Uber cites to support this claim, one is “unscientific” and the other is “paid for by Uber itself.” Furthermore, according to the Los Angeles Times, labor economist Michael Reich “said those polls presented questions disingenuously, saturated with the idea that if the drivers gain employee status, they will lose flexibility — even though the law wouldn’t require that. Companies can give flexibility to employees if they choose to do so.”
But the Fox segment on the topic interviewed only one worker, Brandon O’Neil, who predictably supported Prop 22 and his main concern was the loss of flexibility. Correspondent Claudia Cowan reported that O’Neil “earns enough to cover his living expenses,” but failed to mention that Prop 22’s “pay guarantee” would be equivalent to $5.64 per hour, as opposed to the $13 per hour minimum wage drivers would make as employees.
Cowan also claimed the proposition would “maintain the status quo with some added employee benefits like health care.” Not only would Prop 22 strip workers of most protections they currently have, it also would not provide health care as simply as Cowan stated. Under Prop 22, companies would provide a health care “stipend,” which is valued at 82% of the minimum coverage allowed by state law. In addition, drivers would have to work more than 39 hours a week to even qualify for the stipend.
Fox News routinely touts Special Report and host Bret Baier as part of its “hard news” division but segments like this make it clear that it features similar misinformation Fox News is known for.