Election Day 2020 featured races and storylines that will go down in history books, but one of the most consequential choices voters made was approving a specific ballot measure in California.
Proposition 22 generated several headlines prior to Nov. 3, but ultimately passed with a resounding 6 million votes from Californians. What happens in California may feel distant to us in Connecticut, but the truth is we are wise to listen to what the overwhelming majority of workers and voters there wanted.
Start with the details. In short, Prop 22 guarantees that rideshare drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft can remain independent contractors while enjoying a range of protections. Some have argued that this is a loss, but the measure fundamentally guarantees that drivers can maintain unprecedented independence and work whenever, wherever (and for whomever) they want, all while receiving new benefits.
Voters in California rejected lawmakers’ attempts there to take away workers’ flexibility. Hartford should learn from Sacramento’s mistakes, and find a compromise that reflects what workers really want.
There are several reasons why Connecticut is the perfect place to lead the nation in creating a legislative solution that recognizes the unique flexibility of app-based work.
First and foremost is to protect the gig economy and the jobs it supports across our state. There are about 35,000 workers in Connecticut who rely on gig work to earn money, and recent studies show gig work is an important social safety net during uncertain economic times.
Many of these folks are rideshare drivers, who take on that work precisely because it allows them to customize their hours and earnings. COVID-19 has ravaged the economy everywhere, but leaders in Hartford have a chance to create legislation in Connecticut that offers new benefits like a portable benefits fund to cover expenses like health care or retirement savings.
Most importantly, those benefits don’t have to come at the expense of workers’ flexibility.
Another reason is transportation. Connecticut is a commuter state, and because many of our communities are suburban, a lot of people rely on rideshares for first mile/last mile transportation.
COVID has undoubtedly thrown a wrench in this reality, but there will come a time when hundreds of thousands of folks again need to get to the Metro-North or Hartford Line. We will create a mess for ourselves if we pass rideshare rules that go too far, or make drivers’ hours too formulaic.
Such an outcome would both be a hassle for commuters (hurting efficiency) and take earnings away from drivers (many of whom hit the roads when there is an uptick in demand for first mile/last mile rides).
Protecting flexibility for app drivers will also help keep our roads safer for all drivers. There is no doubt that alternative transportation options go a long way to take impaired drivers off the road.
One landmark study showed that drunk driving fatalities occur 3.5% to 5.6% less in cities that have Uber. A joint report by MADD and Uber also found that people make more responsible decisions when they have access to reliable alternative transportation — namely rideshare programs.
These are no small details, and they take on particular importance in Connecticut, where in 2017 43% of all fatal car crashes involved alcohol. Rideshare regulations have life-or-death consequences, and getting them wrong in Connecticut will exacerbate one of our biggest public safety problems.
Bob Garguilo is state executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving – Connecticut.
*By Bob Garguilo, Hartford Business*