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: ‘Gig work for nurses’ ballot initiative was mysteriously withdrawn within weeks of submission

A mysterious proposed ballot initiative that aimed to let companies treat nurses and other healthcare workers as gig workers was withdrawn less than three weeks after it was submitted.

The initiative was filed with the California Attorney General’s office on Jan. 24, and MarketWatch reported on the ballot measure a week later. It was rescinded on Feb. 11, according to a letter of withdrawal filed with the California Secretary of State’s office, which the attorney general’s office provided upon request by MarketWatch.

The group behind the campaign was largely anonymous and quiet throughout, and nobody involved has replied to several attempts to contact them since the withdrawal of the proposed initiative. A spokesman for the campaign told MarketWatch in January that its backers, whom he would not identify, intended the proposal for the November ballot. But it never got to the signature-gathering stage, and no other versions of the initiative appear to have been submitted to the state for this year’s election.

See: ‘Uber for nurses?’: Initiative targets healthcare for a ‘gig work’ law

The backers of the initiative were known only as Californians for Equitable Healthcare Access. If the initiative had continued the process, qualified for the November ballot and been passed by voters, it would have allowed employers to treat traveling nurses and other healthcare workers as independent contractors if they secured assignments from digital platforms and satisfied several criteria, including being able to work when they want.

The law firm that submitted the proposal, Nielsen Merksamer, also worked on the Proposition 22 ballot initiative in California, which was passed by voters in 2020. That law allowed gig companies such as Uber Technologies Inc.
Lyft Inc.
DoorDash Inc.

and Instacart to circumvent California labor laws that would have required them to treat drivers and delivery workers as employees instead of independent contractors. A coalition backed by the companies is now appealing a court decision that declared Prop. 22 unconstitutional.

For more: The legal definition of ‘gig work’ could finally be decided this year

The campaign spokesman, as well as a lawyer listed on the proposal, have not returned multiple phone calls and emails. One of two proponents listed on the proposal did not return multiple phone calls for comment, and MarketWatch was unable to reach the other.

Mary-Beth Moylan, a law professor at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, also supervises the publication of the California Initiative Review. She said it is not unusual for proposed initiatives to be withdrawn after a short time, with backers sometimes looking to the state’s lawmakers to sponsor a bill instead or deciding the proposal was not worth the effort.

“If they got it out into any kind of circulation even for a couple of weeks and found that it wasn’t appealing to voters, they may have cut their losses early,” she said.

It is unlikely the measure could be successfully refiled through a voter-initiated petition for the November ballot at this time without backing from the legislature, Moylan said. There do not appear to be any possible related proposals before the California legislature at the moment, according to the daily files of both the state senate and assembly.

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