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California’s unions unveiling a new immigrant face for “No on Prop 22”

Written By | Oct 6, 2020
California, AB5, Prop 22

Tonje Ettesvoll, a Norwegian citizen living in San Diego, California, says she drives for Uber and Lyft on a full-time basis. Ettesvoll appeared on KUSI News’s Good Morning San Diego last weekend to encourage Californians to vote No on Prop 22.

Ettesvoll’s KUSI interview was measured, credible, and heartfelt. She hit all the usual talking points used by the No on Prop 22 campaign: Inability to earn minimum wage, no benefits or employee protections, and drivers paying for their own PPE and cleaning supplies. In the interview, Ettesvoll claimed that she and 50,000 other drivers in California are fighting for the employee “protections” and that the Yes on Prop 22 ads are “deceptive” in painting a picture of drivers who are happy with their status as independent contractors.

Twenty-seven days before the election, the No on Prop 22 campaign is pulling out its big guns, using another immigrant to be a credible face. They have done it before (see “Carmel Foster connecting the dots to boyfriend Phil Ting’s AB5 and AB2314 laws”); it is part of their playbook to craft the working-class narrative they desire.

Prop 22 is one of the hot button propositions on the California ballot.

The Proposition is Uber, Lyft’s, and DoorDash’s response to California’s war on app platforms, which culminated in the passage of #AB5. AB5 is the so-called gig workers law that forces companies to make everyone an employee and outlaws 1099/independent contractor relationships. If Prop 22 passes, it will allow Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash’s drivers to maintain their independent contractor status, while other independent contractors still remain under AB5.

However, since AB5 was created to specifically target the app-based platforms, Prop 22’s passage would effectively gut the law.

AB5 has been a point of controversy since its passage in September 2019.

Isabel Soto, director of labor market policy at American Action Forum estimated that aside from the 1 million gig drivers affected, there was an additional 1.5 million independent contractors, freelancers, and gig workers working in the state who would likely be affected. Other organizations like Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), CABIA (The California Business and Industrial Alliance), and California Freelancer’s Coalition estimate the number is higher. The year 2020 has presented the perfect storm of COVID-19, the California state lockdowns, and a horrifically corrupt California Employment Development Department system, resulting in the destruction of livelihoods for over 300 professions across the state.

AB5 was heavily funded and backed by Labor Union dollars. It’s purported author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (AD-80), worked to ram the bill through and get it signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. So, both the No on Prop 22 campaign and Assemblywoman Gonzalez have a vested interest in ensuring their already swiss cheese “signature legislation” not be further shot through.

Make no mistake: The State of California is the one that forced Uber, Lyft’s, and DoorDash’s hand.  These corporations rightly used democratic mechanisms to get a Proposition on the ballot. They are allowing the people of California to decide, rather than paid legislators or Union interests.

As one independent contractor who supports Prop 22 stated:

Full disclosure: I am one of the writers identified in several progressive and tech articles who allegedly assisted in a harassment campaign against UC Hastings Professor Veena Dubal. The articles also alleged that I work in concert with Uber and Lyft’s public relations firm to promote Yes on Prop 22. Neither allegation holds an ounce of truth.

My criticisms of the benighted professor are well documented in a three-part series I wrote back in February, exposing Dubal as the true architect and author of AB5, and her alignment with the Unions. This was long before Yes on Prop 22 was even a thing.

While I have received no payment or incentive to either promote Yes on Prop 22 or “harass” Professor Dubal, as an independent contractor whose livelihood has been put in jeopardy by AB5 and the capricious nature of its exemptions, I am interested in seeing Prop 22 succeed.

If a law can be carved out and broken apart this way, it is a law that should not exist at all.

Independent contractors, freelancers, and gig professionals have been saying this since September of 2019

Sadly, it took contentious battles with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, cobbled together exemptions, and a global pandemic to get the rest of the state and the nation to pay attention to how AB5 has destroyed lives and the California economy.

While polling for Prop 22 has been mixed, a majority of drivers surveyed, and most independent contractors, freelancers, and gig professionals are committed to seeing the Prop pass. As explained by the tweet above, it will be the weigh-in that we never received with AB5.

While the No on Prop 22 Labor Unions are quick to claim it is not democracy for Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash to spend $181 million dollars in advertising and opposition research for this campaign, no one seems terribly interested in questioning why the Unions are singly focused on fighting this or how much money they are spending to do so.

While the reported amount spent is far smaller than the one reported above, various Labor organizations, including the California Labor Federation, (who employs Steve Smith as their Minister of Propaganda Communications Director), have given upward of $2 million dollars toward the defeat of Prop 22.

One such Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1167 in Bloomington, Calif. has given $250,000 dollars toward the fight.  Instacart, another app company not included in the Prop, has severely cut a swath into the grocery delivery business.

This is only one chapter of the big Labor Unions.

According to the Secretary of State’s campaign finance website, national and local chapters of Unions have contributed amounts ranging from $2,000 to $1,000,000. Some of these are the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3, Teamsters, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, District Council of Ironworkers, and Sailors Union of the Pacific.

Interestingly, Assemblywoman Gonzalez recently received a sizable donation from her Labor friends for her opposition to Prop 22.

The San Diego Reader reported,

“The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 Political Action Committee stepped in for Gonzalez with a hefty $500,000 donation on September 22 to the No on 22 forces. The union’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. gave $1 million on September 24.”

These so-called driver’s rights groups who want to see Prop 22 fail spout about Uber and Lyft buying legislation.

The obvious question is, why is it okay for an elected official to do the same? If you dig deeper, you will discover that other politicians and entities have been given financial juice to bolster the No on Prop 22 campaign. Non-profit entities with different names or multiple Prop foci (e.g., Prop 16 AND Prop 22), behested payments, and legislators funneling money to their colleagues are some of the more common methods.

Just like Assemblywoman Gonzalez received Union money specifically targeted toward the No on Prop 22 campaign, so other pockets are also being filled toward that end in order to disconnect the money from the Unions. As has been proven with past Union corruption, the money laundering runs deep.

Which brings us back to Tonje Ettesvoll.

This writer has no doubt that she is a driver. To the naysayers to her KUSI interview, she posted a screenshot on Twitter of her Driver record showing so many trips in a 3.5-year period.

However, this writer has documented in “Carmel Foster, the political pawn of Phil Ting, L. Gonzalez and the AB5 bill testimony” how these so-called grassroots organizations and Labor Unions use immigrants to achieve their ends. I am fairly certain this is the case with Tonje Ettesvoll.

While she may well be complicit in this crisis actor theater, she is nonetheless a pawn being used in these organizations’ games to maintain their power and destroy the independent contractor model.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Ettesvoll and her family moved to the United States in 2014, when she took a General Manager job in the U.S. division of the Norwegian company House of Control, Inc.

Her LinkedIn profile names Ettesvoll as the frontwoman for her band Unicorn. Unicorn appears to have had a substantial following, recording several albums. On Ettesvoll’s LinkedIn summary, there is an indication that the band played for the Queen of Norway.

One would think Ettesvoll would understand how “gigging” and the independent contractor model works.

Instead, she has aligned with the Rideshare Driver’s United organization to vote to destroy freedom for 71 percent of drivers who like being independent contractors and would prefer to stay that way.

You can watch the full KUSI interview here, but these are a few of her claims:

“I can choose to log on the app, but I can’t choose anything else, I can’t negotiate my pay, and in the last 4 years that I’ve been driving Uber and Lyft has been cutting the rates.”
Ettesvoll alleges that she has to pay to sanitize her own car on her own time.

Most independent contractors know that car maintenance, along with the materials used in that maintenance are tax-deductible expenses; you get a return on your investment, but like any investment, it’s not immediate. It’s financial management 101.

Ettesvoll further said, “if Uber wanted to do better for us, they could use the $200 million they’re spending on deceptive ads and send us hand sanitizer and disinfectant to keep our cars clean.”

Among the No on Prop 22 crowd, the latest narrative being pushed is that Uber and Lyft’s Yes on Prop 22 ads are “deceptive”. One-hundred-and-eighty-one million will buy you lots of coverage, but it also buys you quality. The ads are particularly effective because they are so well produced. The same cannot be said of the ads that the No on Prop 22 organizations are putting out. Assemblywoman Gonzalez and the Labor Unions need to pay their ad firms a bit more.

Despite this latest video confessional, many drivers and independent contractors who support Yes on Prop 22 are skeptical.


This contractor called it as she sees it:

And this commenter did his own research, pointing out that Ettesvoll has stronger ties to Norway, rather than her home of six years:

What is the motivation behind Ettesvoll?

This writer questions Ettesvoll’s motives for not only choosing to become a driver after leaving what appears to be a highly skilled position, but her reasons for becoming an advocate for drivers.

Not to mention, the hangdog, desperation stories that the Rideshare Drivers United, Gig Workers Rising, and the other astroturf organizations have been peddling in the No on Prop 22 campaign doesn’t quite fit Ettesvoll’s story. Nicole Moore, the organizer behind Rideshare Drivers United has been exposed as a Union salter who makes over 100,000 at a day job, while organizing for the Unions by finding disgruntled rideshare drivers.

Has Ettesvoll been groomed to do the same?

As someone who appears to have spent most of her formative and adult life in Norway, Ettesvoll’s views on the way we do things in the United States probably do not align with what she has experienced in Norway’s hybrid socialist/capitalist society.

Back in 2017, just four short years after she arrived on our shores, Ettesvoll was interviewed for an article published in the California State University Northridge’s Daily Sundial.

The headline: “U.S. Downgraded to ‘flawed Democracy’ while Norway stays on top” already gives away the jig. Foreigners give their take on what is wrong with our republic and why Norway does it better:

Here, Ettesvoll gave her opinion on American elections:

What gives this writer pause is that, if she is a Norwegian citizen as the article states, what experience does she have with our voting system? Perhaps an investigation for another day.

This wasn’t Ettesvoll’s last time to the media rodeo.

Since August 2020, Ettesvoll has appeared in three articles, interviewed as a driver with Rideshare Driver’s United, helping to organize protests. Her language always follows the Union talking points and supposed concerns.

From Vice News:

From the Guardian:

And before KUSI News, Ettesvoll was interviewed extensively by ABC 10 News in San Diego, who identifies her as one of the organizers of the Driver caravan:

Ettesvoll then states the claim which will be heard again in the KUSI interview:

For independent contractors who thrive on independence and the ability to control one’s work, this viewpoint seems shortsighted. IC BillyHam put it best:

However, this writer suspects Ettesvoll’s intentions are not just about earning a living wage or gaining health insurance. At the end of her LinkedIn bio, it says,

“To continue down the road she started, sharing her story through radio, TV and newspapers, finally stood out as the only choice. Cause she has one. Millions of others don’t.”

I am sure we will see more of Tonje Ettesvoll. Whatever the fate of Prop 22 after November 3, there will be other “worker” grievances that the Unions and astroturf organizations want to exploit, and in Ettesvoll, they have found a credible-sounding voice.

I recommend Ettesvoll heed the words of Carmel Foster, who was manipulated by Assemblyman Phil Ting, as well as the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance (NWDA), another astroturf organization.

“These unions controlled my testimonies, got stories out of me, and then tossed me out. It was payday for them[…]”

Be careful what you wish for.

Jennifer Oliver OConnell

Jennifer Oliver OConnell offers witty, insightful, and direct opinion, analysis and musings on local and national politics and popular culture, with occasional detours into reinvention, food, and Yoga. Jennifer also teaches Yoga, and coaches clients on careers and reinvention. You can keep up with what's in Jennifer's orbit through her As the Girl Turns website.