Uber Engineer Quits Over Pressure to Support Proposition 22

Protesters in cars block Pacific Avenue during a demonstration in front of the home of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi on June 24, 2020 in San Francisco. Dozens of app-based workers held a caravan style protest outside of the home of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to denounce companies that are classifying workers as independent contractors and have not supplied workers with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Former Uber engineer Eddy Hernandez said it started with the yes on Proposition 22 Zoom backgrounds that began appearing around the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Then employees were offered free Proposition 22 T-shirts, managers and executives talked about the proposition in meetings and Hernandez got the sense that bonuses and promotions would go to people who worked on projects related to promoting the proposition.

Hernandez said he felt a constant push to support the proposition at work. He didn’t like feeling that kind of political pressure on the job. On top of that, Hernandez opposes the ballot initiative, and he did not feel comfortable having that viewpoint. If the proposition passes, so-called gig economy companies such as Uber, Lyft and Instacart would be exempted from state labor law and allowed to continue classifying workers as contractors.

“I felt like I was stripped of my voice because if I said anything there would be a conflict of interest or it would affect the financials of the company. That’s a weird place to be in. It’s something I didn’t want to normalize,” he said.

Finally, in the middle of the pandemic and without another job, he decided he would quit. At the end of September, he handed in his resignation.

Hernandez, who has since written a public letter about leaving Uber and his opposition to Proposition 22, is not the first employee to speak out about this kind of pressure.

Drivers at Uber tried, unsuccessfully, to sue the company over the in-app pop-ups soliciting their support. Current Uber employee Kurt Nelson also wrote an op-ed in TechCrunch about opposing Proposition 22, and later described yes on Proposition 22 pressure at the company, similar to what Hernandez experienced.

Hernandez said he only started working there in 2019 because the team that was hiring said the company was really changing its culture. He was apprehensive, but eventually took the job.

Over the last year, Hernandez said he realized the company has not changed from its past, and that there was no real interest for social good — just economic gain for the company and those who worked there.

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Hernandez said he was alarmed by an email he said he received from Uber asking him to tell his family and friends why he supported Proposition 22.

Uber spokesperson Davis White said there were only two company-wide emails related to Proposition 22. White said that the second email said: “As always, lending your voice, your vote, or your time to Prop. 22 is entirely up to you. With that being said, here are some ways to pitch in, if you choose.”

More on Proposition 22

During the coronavirus, Hernandez said the pressure to support Proposition 22 grew. He saw more and more managers start putting the yes on Proposition 22 backgrounds on Zoom, and the company offered to give a free “yes-on-prop-22” T-shirt to any employee who wanted one and many employees started working on yes on Proposition 22 products, like pop-ups urging drivers to vote yes.

There is an internal wiki page at Uber with company initiatives and priorities that employees look at to know what is important to talk about in performance review meetings, Hernandez said. He saw Proposition 22 listed there, which he felt meant that employees who did work on Proposition 22-related projects would have an easier chance of being rewarded with bonuses and promotions.

“These materials are not what managers use as a guide for performance reviews. There is a lot displayed on the site that is not relevant to everyone," Uber spokesperson White wrote in an email. "It is simply a general sense of what's important to the company as a whole, which Prop. 22 obviously is.”

He added, “an employee’s position on Prop. 22 has never and in no way will factor into performance reviews.”