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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Prop 22 is shaping up to be California's most expensive ballot question ever, and its outcome could upend a gig economy business model that's attracted hundreds of billions of investment dollars.

The state of play: Prop 22, supported by such companies as DoorDash and Uber, is favored in most recent polling. But it's no sure bet, due to a large chunk of still undecided voters.

If it passes: Gig economy companies would be able to continue classifying delivery workers and ride-hail drivers as contractors, while providing some new benefits like minimum earnings, health care subsidies, and vehicle insurance.

If it fails: Gig economy companies could be required to abide by a California law that effectively would cause them to treat such workers as employees. Several of the companies have argued that the law doesn't apply to them, but nonetheless have plugged huge money into Prop 22 — which could help head those legal fights off at the pass.

  • A recent UC Berkeley poll gives Prop 22 a 39-36 edge among likely voters, with 25% undecided.
  • A recent San Diego Union-Tribune/10News poll shows 45% in favor, 31% opposed, and 25% undecided.

Prop 22 is a state issue, but what happens in California could inspire similar ballot measures elsewhere, or even federal action.

  • Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have previously expressed support the California law that Prop 22 seeks to modify, and House Democrats passed a bill with similar language.

Gig economy companies are spending huge on Prop 22.

  • Through Sept. 23, "Yes on Proposition 22" had received $184.3 million. Backers include Uber ($50M), Lyft ($48M), DoorDash ($47M), InstaCart ($28M), and Postmates ($11M).
  • "No on Prop 22" received just $10.7 million, mostly from labor unions.
  • Some gig economy companies also have been showing in-app ads to drivers and customers about the ballot measures — something the companies argue is informative, while critics argue is intrusive.

The bottom line: This remains a very close ballot battle, particularly in light of the dollar differential.

Go deeper

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President-elect Biden has named Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his nominee for labor secretary. If confirmed, Walsh will be tasked with leading the country's workers through one of the toughest eras in recent memory.

The big picture: Americans are confronting workplace safety during a pandemic, wrestling with the instability of gig work, experiencing widespread unemployment and more.

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Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

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President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.