Uber and Lyft drivers protest to support bill that will reclassify them as employees

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Uber and Lyft drivers protest to support bill that will reclassify them as employees

Photo credit: Elaine Sanders

Photo credit: Elaine Sanders

Photo credit: Elaine Sanders

Photo credit: Elaine Sanders

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Hundreds of independent contractors traveled to Sacramento to protest in support of California’s gig-work bill that would reclassify them as employees, which passed the state Senate’s Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee.

Assembly Bill 5 would order the Dynamex Decision, which gives workers who are misclassified as independent contractors — such as Uber, Lyft and Postmates drivers — the classification as employees to receive the same basic benefits that employees have, such as workers’ comp, unemployment insurance and minimum wage, said Steve Smith of the California Labor Federation.

Supporters of AB5 say that companies misclassify workers as independent contractors to save costs of employee benefits that can add close to 30% to companies’ labor costs, while those who oppose it claim it will prevent workers from setting their own flexible hours, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“They say we’re independent contractors but we’re not, we’re the employees. They misclassify us for their own benefits because they don’t want to pay unemployment, medicare and insurance,” said Uber and Lyft driver Alvaro Bolainez.

The bill would change the gig economy in California, affecting companies like Uber, Lyft and Postmates, who send drivers out via smartphone apps. Gig-workers are often pulled in by the promise of the ability to make their own flexible schedules and be their own boss, but soon learn about the lack of stability and protection these jobs provide.

Juda, an Uber and Lyft driver of four years, explained that she used to make close to $3,000 a week working the ridesharing apps but now is lucky if she can make $1,500.

“When I started Uber would only take 20% out of my earnings, now it’s close to 70% on some of my rides,” said Juda. “I don’t even know what my riders are paying, I just receive an invoice with my payment. There is no transparency with these companies and that’s what we’re calling for.”

She, like many other drivers, have suffered sexual abuse and harassment while working as rideshares, but receive no protection as workers because of their classification as independent contractors.

“You have three days to file a report through the company which is nearly impossible since you can almost never speak with a human being, and if you can’t file your report in three days you can’t do anything about it,” said Juda. “I had a man put his hands between my legs during a ride and after I filed a report and tried to contact the company, they cited privacy for the man who touched me.”

She still remains hopeful that AB5 will pass the Senate and lead to fair pay and employee protections.

The bill will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee.