Prop 22 introduces a third classification between the employee and independent contractor classifications. It maintains Uber/Lyft and other similar gig workers’ ability to have flexibility as to when they decide they want to work and not to work. This ballot measure provides a limited amount of health benefits, a minimum wage only when driving, and limited compensation for injuries due to workplace injuries (i.e., car accidents). When I use these services, I ask my drivers how they feel about Prop 22. Many of them like the flexibility and rate that as most important. What they don’t know is that they do not have the full protections of the law.
COVID has been devastating to Uber/Lyft drivers as it has left many unemployed. Typically, they would not be entitled to any unemployment insurance because they are contractors who have not paid into the system. The government has bailed them out, like many. We forget that unemployment insurance is a key benefit for employees only. Further, Prop 22 will not require minimum wages for waiting times, only driving times. This is significant as many drivers can spend hours over a day and a week just waiting for passengers. This time will not be compensated thus mitigating any impact that a guaranteed minimum wage will have to them. Further, after reviewing Prop 22 in detail, it is questionable whether enforcement will be meaningful. Uber/Lyft wrote the law – obviously they will avoid an enforcement provision too harsh.
Is there a better way to do this? The answer is “Yes”. Uber/Lyft drivers should have flexibility in scheduling. But they should also have the full benefits of an employee. How can this be done? Uber/Lyft created a system so it can take profits from drivers. They can still profit but they will need to give some of their profits back to the drivers in the form of benefits. They can also allow employees to work when they see fit but pay them for wait time and driving time. Under Prop 22, Uber/Lyft will pay for driving time; so why can’t they pay for waiting time? Prop 22 is not the answer.