Marketers have long known that the voice of the average person can be a powerful thing. But if 2020 had a textbook case, it might well be a man known to millions of viewers only as Marcell H.
Marcell is one of 55 million Americans that the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as a gig worker. Marcell, who works for delivery app DoorDash, lives with his elderly grandparents, both of whom require a great deal of physical assistance. One day, his grandmother fell down at home and called her grandson on his cellphone.
“I was able to clock out of work to go and pick her up off the floor,” he said. “Had I been in a different job, I would have been in trouble, written up or gotten fired for pulling my phone out during work. I wouldn’t have been able to be there for my grandmother.”
Marcell was one of the scores of real-world Californians whose testimonials appeared on the Facebook page for Yes on 22, the political coalition assembled to mass voter support behind a much-watched California ballot measure. Formally known as the App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies Initiative, Prop 22 essentially enshrines the independent status of gig workers by exempting their employers from having to abide by employee minimum wage and benefits requirements under state law.
On Wednesday, the measure notched 58% of the vote, winning easy passage.
For America’s leading ride-sharing and delivery apps, the win wasn’t just good news for their bottom lines; it was a literal return on investment. More than 90% of the $224 million spent on the marketing effort behind Prop. 22 came from the corporate coffers of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart’s owner Maplebear, according to the Los Angeles Times. Last month alone, the Facebook component of the campaign rang up a tab of $3.7 million, more than was spent by either of the presidential campaigns.
Lyft president John Zimmer told the Washington Post the measure’s passage was a “turning point for the future of work in America,” while Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, in an e-mail to drivers, declared that “the future of work is more secure.” Staying in lockstep was a statement to the media from Yes on 22 spokesperson Geoff Vetter, who said “Prop 22 represents the future of work in an increasingly technologically driven economy.”
Vetter’s observation also raises one of the more important business-oriented questions to swirl out of the 2020 election: Will the precedent set by Prop 22 have broader implications for brands and contact workers overall? Many experts believe so, though not all of the implications are positive.
A possible spur to growth
The foremost likely result is that the passage of 22 will not only open the door for new app-based startup brands but also make it easier for existing startups to access potential funding.
“For people who want to get into [an app-based] business, you suddenly have a legitimized business model,” said Dean Crutchfield, chief growth officer of agency Crutchfield and Partners. “If you’re looking to invest in this market or develop a business that wants to get into this market, this is a massive boost in confidence.”
And with the legitimization of that business model, others point out, the economy will be able to count on the sort of job growth that’s essential in a pandemic-fueled recession.