California appears to be on the verge of passing AB5, a bill that would make it much harder for companies to classify employees as “independent contractors”—and a bill that scares Uber and Lyft to death. Drivers from those companies wrote in to tell us how being a real live employee would change their lives.
Uber, Lyft, and other “gig economy” companies have undertaken a feverish lobbying and PR effort to push an alternate package of milder reforms as an alternative to AB5. Last week, we reported that Uber and Lyft are sending out emails to recruit their own drivers to lend their voices to the fight against the bill. We asked drivers to write in and tell us about their experiences, and what they think about the independent contractor vs. employee issue. Below is just a sampling of the responses we got.
“These companies brought this on themselves”
Thank you for writing this article to allow people to know what’s currently going on with ab5 and the companies efforts to defeat it. I just wanted to say after being a driver for both companies for more than three years that these companies cannot be trusted, I find it interesting where in California they’re asking drivers to protest against the bill and at the same time in previous months they’ve done pay cuts with upfront pricing ploys and a mileage rate cut but a minute increase a few months ago which still gives a net loss. This month in other states Lyft has cut Driver destinations filters down from 6 to 2 which really helps drivers like me with profitable airport runs, they also eliminated prime time and replaced it with a much less profitable personal power zone yet they still charge the customer prime time rates they just pocket the extra now and only give the small flat dollar amount to the drivers...
[And] last but not least with these $.30-$.50 per mile pay rates and Lyft is now requiring a 2017 and newer vehicle for Florida if you are adding a new car or being a new driver, I find this funny how both companies are begging for help yet they are doing everything in their power to pay drivers less. These companies cannot be trusted plain and simple this carrot that they’re dangling with the $21 an hour is a scam it’s a ploy it only looks good on its face. I hope ab5 passes because these companies brought this on themselves no one else brought this on them.
No real flexibility
Because of low pay, Uber’s logic does not support the idea of flexibility. I need to work 12hrs. Per day 24/7 to barely survive living in San Fransisco. Furthermore without benefits, I can’t guarantee being able to manage. So there is no choice when I want to work.
Predatory business model
The Uber and Lyft business models only work by being predatory on drivers. Most of the drivers I talked to never do the math to find out how little they actually net. In the Vegas market Uber takes $3.25right off the top for their so-called operating expenses per ride.
I would suggest to you that drivers expenses are just as valuable and ongoing. But uber continues to take more money out of the driver’s pockets rather than reduce their bloated salaries at the top of management. What they have done is managed to cut cab rates drastically and pass the biggest overhead costs down to the drivers and tell the general public how much better they are for eliminating those costs.
More and more drivers are cutting Uber out of the loop and taking reoccurring rides for themselves, and riders are happy to pay less than Uber and have drivers make more to cover their costs.
Make no mistake this is America and drivers will not be held down and manipulated forever. Eventually Uber will disappear if drivers can’t cover their vehicle costs and make living.
I have drove for a year. U/L Rob us blind. Uber has sent me to pick up MINORS that I report as minors and decline to take. Two times in the past 2 weeks I watched as Uber DIDN’T deactivate the minors already reported. Instead, they sent more drivers! The charge passengers a fee, then charge us multiple fees that usually results in their keeping 61 to 68 percent of the gross. Lyft and Uber are operating like child slave labor days. Their greed and controlling everything the driver does short of provide the vehicle and do the actual driving is the status of an employer! Enough. Either they only be allowed to keep 25 percent of gross to include all their bogus fees in that 25 percent, or make them controlled Employer as they now operate using us drivers as slave labor.
The view from St. Louis
I drive for both in St. Louis, MO. There are far too many drivers in this area alone. We exceed the supply over the demand and find ourselves just sitting around and wasting valuable time. Or driving around and wasting gas and money. I’ve been driving for 3.5 years here and have to work 7 days a week just to make $500. Before Uber took away the surge money I averaged $1500 a week and only had to work 5 days a week. Now I’m working everyday from 3am till noon in the hopes of getting airport runs but with all the drivers out here doing the same thing, it’s hard to find “safe” places to work... I’m all for this law. Lyft and Uber need to man up. They’ve taken so much from us and me that I don’t care what shift I work, just as long as I have rights. I have nothing now. I’m a contractor with zero rights and no control over my fares. 2 years ago I upgraded my car so I would be eligible for select and XL, my car’s a 2014 Buick Regal Turbo, and according to Lyft, it’s no longer luxury. My car is all luxury. This rating system has too much power over a driver and that’s got to stop now. These companies need to pay up or go broke. My car had 20k on it when I bought it 2 years ago.. it’s got 193,000 on it now and I still owe 16 grand. There’s no more warranty, I just replaced the engine and transmission last month. I’m $10,000 in the hole with it on top of what I owe on the car. I had to take out loans and apply for high rate credit cards to get this done. And I don’t make that much anymore. Taking away the surge was absolutely greedy in every part. I hope they burn and everyone in California becomes an employee. Then the rest of us can get on board and Sue them for the same rights until everyone in the world or at least in the United States is an employee.
The view from Houston
These companies are blindly stealing more and more and selling us they are doing it to make it better. There’s nothing stopping these people from going out, getting a job or second one for that matter to make ends meet. I’ve had to... We do this on our own time. Just a click of a button and bamm! You’re on.
The carrot being dangled here is that for 95% of us, it’s cash in hand after a few hours work. And that’s what motivates the drivers to do dumb things and to give up on themselves, the quick cash out to get thru the next few hours. I would say less than 10% of us are full time drivers. I’m not anymore. But for a good 18 months I was. The money was good at first. I was making .87 cents a mile. Bring home $700-1000 a week. Then Harvey came and it was great. But the new year brought new drivers getting their lives back. Getting cars and Lyft was now in town. Then after 2 drivers forums we are barely making .60 a mile with a larger portion of the booking fee taken away. So yes, thank you drivers forums for making me realize this is not going to support a family. I have 5 in my family. I’m working full time and drive for Uber on be my days off and the occasional weekend. I am grateful for what it has given me. I will be grateful for what it has in store for me provided it’s positive. But again and I can’t stress this enough, no one is forcing me to do it. It’s a personal choice.
A good solution for disabled people
I have been driving for Uber and Lyft in upstate New York for about 2 years. I was forced into early retirement several years ago because of a partial disability, and Uber and Lyft provided the perfect solution for me to earn extra money as an independent contractor without losing my Workers’ Comp. or Social Security Disability benefits which consist of set monthly and bi-monthly monetary awards (not considered income for tax purposes) in addition to free healthcare through Medicaid and Medicare. That is very important to me. By being self-employed, I am allowed to show NET income instead of GROSS income, and my mileage deduction alone is more than enough to offset my earnings on paper and show zero or negative income. This not only ensures that I can keep my disability benefits, but also means I pay no income tax on my earnings, and there is NO LIMIT to how much I can earn! If I were considered an employee, I would have to show my gross earnings to WC and SS, and would have to severely restrict my driving and consequent earnings to avoid losing those benefits, and my allowable deductions would be considerably less for IRS purposes making my income potentially taxable. Many other Uber and Lyft drivers I know are in similar situations. We would probably all stop being rideshare drivers if we were forced to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. For the drivers who aren’t disabled, I guess they would need to weigh the pros and cons of receiving employee benefits versus the greater tax deductions and the flexibility of being self-employed.
More consistent...ly low wages
Since I started driving around a year and a half ago, Uber and Lyft have been lowering wages. They say that they are making wages ‘more consistent’, but that is an outright lie in my opinion, as well as other rideshare drivers sharing this sentiment. In the article you quote Uber as stating, ‘ensuring you earn a minimum of approximately 21$ per hour when driving’. The week of June 17th, according to Uber, I was on my way to a passenger or have a passenger on board around 55% of the time, this E-mail also state that 42% was the average for my area. Thus, the average driver under a 21$ per hour ‘while driving’ for an average driver is less than minimum wage for my area (Sacramento, CA)
My father, who is also a rideshare driver went to a rally at the California State capital on July 9th rally paid for by Lyft/Uber against AB5. My dad is very much in favor of AB 5, he went to stir up some controversy. He’s repeatedly shared with me that around half the people he interact with who were against AB5 lacked basic verbal English communication ability. This very much goes along with the line of your argument of rideshare drivers don’t know what they ‘would gain by being classified as employees’. I feel the overall majority of the rideshare driving population would be much better if they were classified as an employee.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in. If you are an Uber or Lyft driver who wants to share your experiences, email me.