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World News – United States – The future of performing workers may depend on ballot voting in California

Prop 22, costliest voting measure in state history, would change the job landscape for millions of workers

By Irina Ivanova

November 2, 2020/09:56
/ MoneyWatch

Concert companies have long argued that the people who drive for Uber or deliver food for DoorDash are not employees but rather self-employed – a vital legal distinction that many « platforms » allow Internet to Deny Benefits and Take Other Steps to Minimize Their Labor Costs Now Californians are going to weigh in on this issue by voting on a voting measure dubbed Proposition 22

Proposal 22 aims to create permanent ‘independent contractor’ status for platform workers Critics say ballot measure allows app companies to underpay and exploit workers apps argue that without it, they might be forced to increase prices or cut services Here are the stakes for the most expensive voting measure in California history

About 500,000 people in California work for concert companies including DoorDash, Instacart, Lyft, and Uber These actors classify their workers as independent contractors – essentially self-employed workers who choose when, where and how to work and who all pay their own taxes Last year, however, California passed a law, AB5, which required construction workers and many other independent contractors to be treated as employees.

If passed, Proposition 22 would exempt large concert companies from this law Construction workers who drive or make deliveries would be treated as independent contractors, but would receive a guaranteed minimum wage for the time they are active on a given platform People who work at least 15 hours a week would also receive an allowance for the purchase of health insurance

App employees would receive 120% of the local minimum wage, plus 30 cents per mile driven But payment only applies for the time they are actively working on a given job, like driving a passenger or performing An order They wouldn’t be paid for the time they spend logged in to an app while waiting for job applications Under AB5, on the other hand, this waiting time is considered paid work, like a cashier waiting for customers to make a sale.

« If you’re a barista, you get paid whether or not there is someone at the counter right now, » said Ken Jacobs, president of the Labor Center at the University of California at Berkeley Jacobs analyzed Prop 22 and found his guaranteed wage to be $ 5.64 for every hour that drivers are logged into their app California’s minimum hourly wage is $ 12

Opponents of Prop 22 say performing workers are independent contractors in name only: after all, Uber and Lyft set the rules for drivers to behave, and app algorithms determine how they’re paid. drivers do not have employee rights, such as paid sick leave, overtime and the ability to form a union

“At the moment, we are not independent contractors,” said Orlando Mims, Uber driver for six years in San Francisco. “The only good thing we can do is be able to log in and log out when we are. want Everything else is controlled by Uber: how many trips we get, whether we make any or not « 

When Mims started working for Uber, it was initially so lucrative that he quit his job as a full-time truck driver to focus on carpooling But the $ 2,000 to $ 2,500 a week he was making has since shrunk as Uber slashed driver fares and the bonuses and other incentives it once offered.

The pandemic completely destroyed this income Mims said he contracted COVID-19 in the spring and took several months to recover Since resuming driving, customer demand has almost non-existent Last week Mims said he made around $ 100

Mims’ experience is common to many longtime conductors Between 2013 and 2018, the income of the typical concert conductor fell by 53%, according to a study by JPMorgan Chase

Kristina Hope, who drove for Uber for four years before the pandemic, said she was also disappointed with the reduction in premiums Still, she said, « I signed up knowing there was no benefit » Hope has been self-employed her entire life – she owned an art consulting business for 30 years before moving out. at Uber – and said she prefers it

« If you want another job that you get benefits for, find another job Don’t ruin it for the rest of us, » she says

Hope, who lives in Studio City, estimates that she made around $ 700 a week driving 30 hours, but she often worked much less, as she balanced Uber’s job with a financial services sales job for World Financial Group and often traveled She doesn’t think she would have control of her schedule as a full employee

« The good thing is being able to drive when you want, » she said « Some weeks I didn’t drive at all That’s the beauty of saying, ‘I’m going to see my mom in Seattle for a week  » and I didn’t have to ask anyone It’s huge « 

Nothing in California law forces Uber or Lyft to change driver schedules, as the state has pointed out But since employees are so much more expensive to hire than contractors, prop 22 advocates say it makes sense that companies want more drivers

« No company offers its employees the same flexibility as Uber’s engines, » CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote this month. If Uber were to hire their drivers, it would only have room for 280,000 workers instead of the 14 million people who currently use the app

For many workers the debate around prop 22 comes down to quality over quantity Those who rarely use the apps or just to make extra money tend to value them a lot more than those for who driving or delivering goods is a full-time job

Karen Pyatt is on her first stint as a concert worker in six months Pyatt signed up to Instacart this spring to deliver groceries to people housebound by the pandemic, and quickly started to love it, she said She now shops for others for 20 or 30 hours a week, earning around $ 300 to $ 400 which she sets aside for house projects and vacations.

« It’s just an extra – it’s not money we depend on, » she says Pyatt retired from a law enforcement career 11 years ago and her husband drives part-time for Uber and Lyft The couple are in their 60s and enjoy being able to put family first while only working occasionally, Pyatt said

“It’s essential that we have this flexibility to work where and when we want to,” said Pyatt “I don’t really want to have a fixed schedule unless it’s a schedule I choose, especially after working in government for 30 years « 

But for Steve Gregg, an Uber and Lyft driver, the arrangement felt like a forced schedule with ever-diminishing returns When it started in 2017, “It seemed like a decent business decision I could put in a 40-week week. hours and earn enough to get by, or even put 10 or 15 more hours, and I could do something with my life, take my kids somewhere « 

But as Uber and Lyft cut their wages, Gregg found himself working more and more hours and depleting his savings « At the end of the week, with 60 to 80 hours of driving, I was struggling to make $ 600, $ 700, after expenses, » recalls Gregg

« One of the things I felt the most about Lyft and Uber was that they played so many pilots, » he said. « Sure, if you’re retired and just need an extra $ 20 a week, that’s great. But 80% of trips are provided by 20% of drivers, and those drivers eat bullets. »

If Prop 22 is successful, other companies will likely try to turn their employees into contractors to save money, experts predict

« I think you’ll see platform-based companies in other service industries either trying to fit into the exception [to AB5] or, if Proposition 22 is successful, trying to do the same, « said attorney Jason Morris, partner at Newmeyer Dillion law firm which represents employers

Platform companies have invested over $ 200 million in support of Prop 22 with full publicity push (Opponents of the measure donated $ 16 million) Californians have seen TV commercials and received flyers in the mail urging them to vote in favor of Prop 22

Uber and Lyft sent an avalanche of text messages and pop-up notifications through their apps, prompting drivers and passengers to vote for In some cases, drivers had to click « OK » or « Yes on Prop 22 » to access the app, according to reporter Sam Harnett

Uber drivers sued the company this month, claiming the barrage of notifications amounted to coercion Instacart told its employees to put pro-22 flyers in buyers’ orders, according to buyer Vanessa Bain. from Instacart DoorDash donated restaurant bags with a pro-22 message

Uber and Lyft had previously threatened to leave California if they were forced to treat drivers like employees The companies also said they would raise prices for rides and possibly cut service if the service failed. prop 22

Yet Californians remain deeply divided on the issue A UC Berkeley poll conducted two weeks ago shows 46% of voters support him, 42% against and the rest undecided

“It’s just a puzzle,” said Mims, the Uber driver “We went through all the protests, we got a law passed through lawmakers, we asked the governor to sign it, and we always follow her »

First published on November 2, 2020/09:56

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