Los Angeles is filled with young professionals trying to make it in the industry. As an actress in this town, I have to be ready at any moment to jump to the next audition (or God willing, an actual acting job) while still finding ways to pay my rent. As an independent contractor who drives for Lyft, I can make my own hours and work when and where I want while still pursuing my career. That is why I am concerned about a recent California Supreme Court decision that would force independent contractors like myself to become employees – with all the obligations of a set schedule that go along with it.
I graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a clear plan: I was going to work a 9-5 job like everyone else. But with previous jobs where I was an employee, I was unable to drop everything and make an audition, or take a couple days to work on my next acting gig. As a Lyft driver for the past four years, it is literally as easy turning on and off the app to decide when I’m going to be working.
This flexibility is exactly the reason why I decided to start driving with Lyft in the first place. With talk about restructuring the very foundation of the sharing economy, people like me have few alternatives to turn to without giving up another part of our lives that is also essential. And I am not alone in this belief. According to a survey recently released by Lyft, almost 95 percent of drivers around the L.A. area said that this flexibility was important for them.
I am also not alone in driving limited hours, well below what a “regular job” requires. In fact, 89 percent of all L.A. drivers drive for fewer than 20 hours a week, leaving them time to make an audition, their kid’s sports game or performance, or be there for their elderly grandma when she needs a helping hand. While we can put a monetary value on some of these activities, we can’t show you how important it truly is to be present at them – or to take back your own agency from continuous oversight and control.
When I do actually book an acting gig, I can do so with the security of not having to quit my day job and worry about how I’ll pay the rent when the gig ends. Ridesharing is waiting for me – on my terms, when I return. This is also extremely common with other drivers, as flexible hours are important to us specifically because they supplement freelance, unpredictable, or unstable work income. And about 16 percent reported being rideshare drivers to get through temporary unemployment. These are people in a wide range of industries, from recent graduates looking for their first full-time jobs to small business owners who are working to get their companies off the ground.
Technology has given me the ability to work on my own terms. If I’m forced to become a conventional employee with normal, assigned hours, it could prevent me from living out my dream. As the California State Legislature begins its 2019 session, our elected officials have the opportunity to pass legislation that would fix the problems caused by this recent court decision and protect my right to work as an independent contractor. I urge them to take action that will allow me, and all the others like me around the state, to continue to earn a living on my own terms.