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App-based drivers left with no benefits

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Now that Proposition 22 has passed, app-based drivers could be looking at a future with little to no benefits and low wages.

California voted yes on Proposition 22 on November’s ballot, allowing companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. Although this proposition may appear to provide app-based drivers more freedom with their services, it actually leaves many of them with economic challenges.

Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash and Postmates contributed nearly $200 million to this proposition to counteract against AB 5, which passed earlier this year and classified app-based drivers as employees. This is the largest amount of money spent to pass a ballot proposition in California history – all for advertising that was misleading about the basic facts of the proposition.

These companies have stated their drivers would much rather prefer flexibility over sustainability. However, that comes into question when app-based drivers are left with no benefits and an unstable wage system.

Paid sick leave, unemployment, overtime pay, health insurance and even a minimum hourly wage will no longer be provided to these app-based drivers under Proposition 22. Companies will disperse benefits under their own criteria they individually set up for their drivers and will be nearly impossible to change. 

Furthermore, app-based drivers face the big issue of being paid for engaged time instead of an hourly wage under Proposition 22. Engaged time only counts when the driver accepts a request and completes that request. However, the time spent unengaged will not be compensated, which is a huge problem since app-based drivers spend 30 to 40 percent of their time unengaged, according to a report by the Center for New York City Affairs. 

App-based drivers will also have to find a way to pay for expenses such as full mileage trips. According to the Mobile Workers Alliance, app-based drivers earned $15 an hour when classified as employees. Now, they will earn as low as $5.64 per hour, and that is only when the rides are active. No individual should be relying on that ridiculously low amount to survive on a day to day basis.

But low pay and no benefits whatsoever are not the worst part of Proposition 22. Local governments are banned from passing laws related to sick leave and wages for app-based drivers or offering any benefit or stipend under Proposition 22, according to Mobile Workers Alliance. The classification of independent contractors also prevents app-based drivers from unionizing against companies, leaving them with no way out of the scheme that is Proposition 22.

Unfortunately, it would now take at least 88 percent vote by the state legislature to overturn this proposition. Usually, the state capitol would require this big of a majority vote for legislation that seeks to rename highways or prevent shelter animals from being euthanized.

The seven-eighths majority required to remove Proposition 22 is unheard of. And it sets a very dangerous precedent for any future propositions that can allow well-financed special interest groups to bypass the state legislature to put their own laws into effect directly.

Proposition 22 was created by app companies to selfishly exempt themselves from providing basic employment protections to their drivers and from contributing to safety net programs. Now more than ever app-based drivers need our support to face the challenges brought upon them by multi-million dollar corporations who believe they are above the law.

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