Over a century ago, in Lochner v. New York, the U.S. Supreme Court infamously struck down a workplace maximum hours law, suggesting that it was “an unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference” with an individual’s right and liberty to enter into contracts. But freedom of contract is no longer the economic ideology underlying the push to retract basic employment and labor rights.
Instead, the employer-backed myth of “entrepreneurial opportunity” has paved the way for state legislatures to undo basic work protections for certain service sectors occupied primarily by immigrants and racial minorities.
For example, in November 2020, after a $200 million campaign backed by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart, California passed Proposition 22, which classified drivers for those companies as independent contractors rather than employees. In effect, Proposition 22 carved out workers laboring for these companies from the state’s employment law protections—rights that the California state legislature and courts had affirmed.