By now, you’ve probably seen some slick ads for Proposition 22, paid for by Uber, Lyft and other app-based companies. They hope you have because they’re spending $181 million to tell you a story.
These so-called gig companies now are waging the most expensive propaganda campaign in state history. They’ve outspent all other special interests that came before them: Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco.
They know they must spend big, because it costs a lot to confuse the public about the facts.
Here’s the truth about Prop. 22: It is an initiative that would exempt these gig companies from having to comply with the fundamental employment laws that apply to all other industries — things such as minimum wage, overtime, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, access to safety equipment and more.
In the case of those TV ads, the fiction is that all drivers do the work as part-time gigs. The ads cite misleading research based on company-provided data to assert that “80 percent of drivers work only a few hours a week” and that drivers support being independent contractors “by a 4-1 margin.”
Independent studies from both ends of the state tell an entirely different story. UC Santa Cruz research concluded: “On-demand ride-hailing and delivery work in San Francisco is performed predominantly by people for whom it is close to full-time work.”
A survey of Southern California drivers by UCLA found that “almost half of the drivers are driving 35 hours or more” a week. In addition, 55 percent said they would prefer to earn a set hourly wage after expenses.
As a ride-hail driver for the last six years, I can attest that Uber and Lyft are desperate to get more work out of existing drivers by offering bonuses to drive more hours. When you try to chase those bonuses, you can fall behind. One year I had five flat tires. I’ve replaced cracked windshields. All those expenses came out of my pocket. My Toyota Prius finally died recently, after 275,000 miles.
Prop. 22 includes promises to improve conditions for drivers, but they are empty promises.
It says drivers will be paid 120 percent of the minimum wage — but they would be paid only for “engaged hours” and never for the time they spend disinfecting cars between rides, waiting for the next call or driving back from some remote drop-off location. The net effect would be a sub-minimum wage.
It says drivers will be paid 30 cents a mile for expenses, but that doesn’t come close to covering the actual cost. In fact, it’s only about half of what the IRS allows truly independent contractors to claim.
It says drivers will receive insurance coverage in the event of an on-the-job injury. But the provision caps the amount of medical expenses and limits the period for which drivers could receive disability pay. There are no such restrictions for employees covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
Drivers should be classified as employees because the facts show that is exactly what they are. Courts in California have consistently held that to be the case.
It is drivers like me who will lose if Prop. 22 passes. We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from labor unions that can be counted on to speak out against exploitation. But we are mismatched against an industry that will spend whatever it takes to preserve a system that impoverishes drivers.
There’s a better way. They could follow the law. Please make them do that. Vote No on Prop. 22.