After a monumental political battle, California passed AB5, a law that will make it much harder for gig economy companies to classify their workers as “independent contractors.” Now, the same political battle is coming to New York. That means it’s a perfect time to hear from Uber and Lyft drivers, in their own words.
The app-fueled rise of the gig economy is based in large part on the ability of companies to classify the vast majority of their workers as independent contractors and avoid having actual employees, which come with all sorts of legal and financial obligations. The steep downsides of this practice—a vast pool of underpaid working people with no employer or government safety net—have led to a grand debate in the labor policy world about what to do about it. The California law pursues the straightforward strategy of cutting off the ability of companies to classify workers as contractors, forcing them to take on the responsibilities of treating them as employees. There is another school of thought that says we should, instead, preserve the vaunted “flexibility” offered by gig economy jobs and protect these workers by building them a new set of government benefits. According to a Bloomberg Law story today, that debate could frame New York’s looming fight over this issue:
Sen. Diane Savino (D) plans to introduce updated legislation that would extend protections such as unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation benefits, and minimum wage and overtime pay requirements to a new class of “dependent workers.” But a coalition of advocates already is pushing lawmakers to go further, adopting something similar to a new California law designed to force gig and a wide range of other businesses to reclassify independent contractors as employees.
When California was considering its bill last month, we asked Uber and Lyft drivers, who are the most visible class of gig employees who would be directly affected by these changes, to email us and tell us about their working conditions. Hundreds did. As New York wrestles with the same questions, let’s hear from more of the people whose lives could be changed.
Salt in our wounds
We pay for all of the physical operating expenses, the car payments, car warranty, gas, insurance, repairs, phone, data, deductibles for insurance, depreciation of car value, plus we add our time. For drivers who have fallen for the psychological manipulation device of star ratings, theres the cost of water and snacks. The apps offer happy guitar music accompanied training videos to encourage us to believe that we solely are responsible for the star ratings and our success, but that is not reality. Drunken passengers who had a bad night often drunkenly perceive you as bad for telling them to respect your car space and not play loud music, scream while you’re driving or not take 5 or 6 people, when the rules and the law say you can only take 4. Also in their training videos, with happy music playing, they tell us we are silent partners, which is blatant fraud, we are not partners or contractors, we are community service volunteers with slight compensation for some expenses. We offer all the value, yet we have to accept whatever financial distribution of funds they present, in a take it or leave it manner. The apps do not offer the value to us or to the customer to justify the amount of money they hold back from drivers and keep for themselves. We are not being compensated fair market value for our services, not even slightly. When gas rates go up, our fees should be passed along to the consumer, because the consumer requires the service and therefore must pay the costs. There is no trusting the app companies who are defrauding us by denying our value and input. It’s the fattest, greediest, most unfair business model that exists, and its only saving grace is feeling like you are helping the people of the community.
Drivers despise the app profit only model they work with. The app isn’t showing a profit, because they are spending easy money that they do not value, because they aren’t doing the work, maintenance, financial support to make it happen. Their misspending of the fruits of DRIVER LABOR AND ASSETS on their dangerous and expensive ludicrously expensive to run self driving car model, meant to put us out of business, is salt in our wounds. This business model has one and only one ethical means of working. Each community should own the app, and the drivers have to be expenses compensated, but volunteers, the money goes to Sr. Citizens, schools and public no entrance fee parks and recreation, roads, etc . This profit model is parasitism, it’s almost like cancer because it grows bigger at the expense of the host (drivers). We lose money, by driving, but it’s hard to see it that way because it blends into our normal personal expenses...
We also do not know how to change this. Nobody is fighting for us, because passengers only care they are getting a cheap ride, they get upset and angry, standing up for the app (which is how they glom us “independent contractors” into, they don’t see us as drivers and have no idea how little we get paid or how unfair our compensation model is) which they are in favor if.
I do love the act of being a rideshare driver, but wish we were considered profit share drivers instead. We do charity work, and it feels like charity to do it. People aren’t appreciative as if it is charity, and that is what hurts.
From a veteran
I’m 71 retired US naval air veteran. I drive for both Uber and lyft for almost a year now, and find the average hourly earnings (no matter the hours I work) are less than the $13.00 per hour minimum wage in New York. It barely supplements my social security monthly, to help me pay my fixed monthly bills.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m truly thankful to Uber and Lyft for giving me at least this opportunity to somewhat subsidize my income. Just wish it would average at least the minimum wage per hour I work.
A side note. Uber and Lyft would send me to pick up a ride 20 minutes and 10 miles away, only to drive that ride 4 minutes 2 miles to earn net $3.64.
A lot of power for a platform
Here is an experience: I just got deactivated by uber for having a “high cancellation rate.” I cancel rides per uber policy due to:
A. No shows
B. Unaccompanied minors
C. Too many passengers or luggage
D. no car seats for toddlers.
E. Belligerent/unsafe riders (the kind who curse and threaten drivers or refuse to wear a seat belt
That is it.
But this is the power a platform uses? Uber claims passengers are counting on me and I let them down. I should have turned off my app and not accepted the rides. But..I cannot know any of the above until I accept the ride and interact with the passenger.
So...how many “platforms” take such punitive action against an independent contractor and get this, my earnings this week are being held hostage and shall be so as long as I am deactivated. Keep in mind this is money I have already earned.
A lot of power for a platform eh.
I am currently stuck doing Lyft full time. Most of the horror stories you received don’t even begin to scratch the surface on how truly terrible things are, so I wanted to reach out and give you an idea of how things are going in Austin, Texas.
Lyft dropped their per-mile rate by 33 (THIRTY-THREE!!!) percent. How do they justify it? They announced they were rolling out a new feature that would compensate drivers for the time it takes us to get to a passenger; what they DIDN’T announce was the rate cut. That’s on top of the high percentage of the fare they already take.
I don’t know how and why they’re allowed to lie to the government by telling them that they only take up to 26 percent of fares. That’s a blatant lie, one of many lies that I will disprove by attaching receipts. [The following earnings statement was attached].
I’m a driver on long Island in New York. I’ve been driving for Uber and lyft for 2 years now. Actually I stopped driving for lyft a year ago because most of the calls were anywhere between 13 to 25 mins away to pickup. That’s just burning way too much gas.
I’ve stuck with only Uber for the past year.
Ive been driving taxis, town cars and shuttle vans for private transportation companies on long Island for 30 years before leaving them and coming to Uber.
Uber has killed at least 50 percent of the private taxi business on long Island. Last summer I was working 12 hours per night and it was very good actually. I could gross 350 to 400 dollars a night. After gas I could still bring home 300 dollars. Fast forward to this summer.....
I’ve tried working all day for 12 hours I’ve tried working nights for 12 hours I’ve even split up the days so I could do both morning and evening rush hours.. The calls are not close anymore. You have to drive anywhere from 6 mins to 25 mins away. Last summer they were always 4 to 10 mins away.
I gross on a good day or night 185 to 220 dollars. After gas if I’m lucky 150 to 160 dollars a 12 hour period. They saturated long Island with drivers...
They treat their drivers like shit. We are the backbone of the company. Without us there wouldn’t be an Uber... Long story short... Unless you really have no choice... Stay away from Uber... They’ll bankrupt you.... They’ll destroy your car and they’ll make your life so stressful and hard.
One day’s pay
One day I drove for only 3 hours because of a family event. I made $24.15 and drove 65 miles.
I can either consider my operating costs at 10 cents per mile for just gas. However my car payment, insurance and gas cost 40 cents per mile.
Multiply 65 miles x 40 cents=$26.
If your company had any jobs available I’m willing to PAY YOU 62 cents per hour to let me work.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in.