Congress recently introduced Worker Choice and Flexibility Act (WFCA)this would do exactly the opposite of what its name suggests: It would leave contract workers like me unprotected by federal minimum wage laws and other worker protections –and it would prevent states from making their own regulations to maintain good standards.
All the time Lyft As a driver working in southern California since 2017, I know the importance of flexibility at work. That’s why I decided to start driving in the first place – the ability to work when and for as long as I want.
However, the reality of gig work is not so rosy. App based companies like UberLyft, and DoorDash spent millions to convince lawmakers and the public that they should be exempt from worker protection laws that apply to all other employers. Work through lobbying groups like Flex and Workforce Innovation Alliance (CWI) – the very group behind WFCA – they give policymakers the false premise that motorists like me can not rights and interests of employees. They say I’m an independent contractor, even if important aspects of my work – like who I choose, where I take them and how much I make – are laid down by Lyft.
“Flexible” and “independent” sound great, but here’s the truth: When you have to work more than 50 hours a week to make a living, when you have to weigh every hour not to work with lost income. , when you are an accident or illness warding off financial ruin, flexibility and independence mean nothing.
Although I made a decent living as a driver at first, my hourly wage dropped about 25% in about a year after I started. Lyft unilaterally cut the price of the driver, forcing me to work longer hours to earn the same amount. That’s when I realized that the “flexibility in gig work” motivated me to work longer and for specific times. My paychecks continue to be unpredictable, especially because I incur expenses — like rising gas prices — that I can’t pass on to Lyft or my passengers.
Unlike employees, I only get paid for some of my time. In California, Uber and Lyft claim that they will guarantee pay at 120% of California’s minimum wage—that’s $18 per hour—but this pay standard doesn’t take up a third of the time drivers spend. waiting to be assigned new passengers or returning from trips to outlying areas. Research found that the minimum hourly wage for app-based drivers is actually $5.64 per hour, after accounting for all hours worked and all expenses.
Furthermore, although we face health and safety risks such as Car theft is at an alarming rate, app-based drivers don’t have sick leave, workers’ compensation, or employer-provided health insurance. Drivers end up having to rely on GoFundMe campaigns to pay for hospital bills and car repairs. The families of the drivers killed have also done the same to take care of the funeral.
So why, according to contract companies, are they not liable as employers? Because their drivers can choose when they work. The gig companies argue that there must be a balance between scheduling flexibility and employer responsibilities on the one hand, and employment-based rights and protections on the other.
But this trade-off is a lie. Many employees — including, I bet many senior executives at Uber and Lyft — work on a schedule that suits their needs, and enjoy the rights and protections that come with being an employee. membership, including the right to a safe, healthy, and non-discriminatory workplace, and benefits such as paid leave, health insurance, and retirement savings.
An independent contractor model is not required for the company’s operations. After the EU proposed requiring contract companies to treat their workers like employees, Uber’s CEO reassured investors that the company would continue to thrive because of it.Can make any model work. A recent study by researchers at Northeastern University and Boston College of a company that reclassified its drivers as employees in response to a change in California law found that Drivers enjoy the same schedule flexibility as independent contractors.
Lawmakers should not overturn workers’ rights in the name of “flexibility”. Instead, they must ensure that basic workplace rights and standards are applied equally to workers across the board. Many contract workers work full-time for applications and rely on these jobs as their main source of income. We should enjoy predictable and predictable wages. We should also have benefits like health and accident insurance, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance to help us through tough times. And we deserve the right to collective bargaining with gig companies on the terms and conditions of our work.
Coming out of the pandemic, a time when many professional-class workers enjoy unprecedented scheduling flexibility, Congress and other policymakers need to ensure greater flexibility for all. workers, not less benefits for underpaid workers like me.
Mike Robinson is a share driver based in California and a member of the Mobile Workers Union.
Opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary are those of their authors only and do not reflect the views and beliefs of Fortune.
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