Gig worker pay: what to know before voting on the prop. 22

In summary

No, the ballot measure will not ban Uber and Lyft in California. But it would change the way drivers are paid.

How much will your Uber driver get paid if gig companies convince California voters to approve the ballot measure Proposition 22? This can range from $ 5.64 to $ 27.58 per hour, depending on who you ask.

As early voting begins this week, the Very expensive The state ballot measure in modern history has widened the loopholes in the battle for the future of work. Some application drivers among the many Californians jostle each other for incomes during the pandemic say they will vote yes to keep making money fast, despite lingering questions about how much they can earn. Others who have spent years composing the highest paying routes say they will vote no on Proposition 22, and what they really need is a stable paycheck.

“It’s kind of like going to Vegas,” said Ben Valdez, a five-year-old Lyft and Uber driver in Los Angeles who opposes the prop. 22. “Sometimes you do very well, and sometimes you do horribly.” For Valdez, who drives 20 to 25 hours a week after his day job at a community college, horrible has meant $ 3 an hour. Doing it big can cost $ 400 per 12-hour day, although that too can quickly be consumed by expensive car repairs.

With the prop. 22, which is supported by nearly $ 185 million Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates, owner of Uber, concert companies aim to exempt themselves from the news AB 5 contractual labor law. It requires drivers to be classified as employees earning minimum hourly wages, overtime, mileage reimbursement, and benefits such as health care and paid time off. With so much money for the gig business at stake, prop. 22 – who won a narrow lead in recent voter polls – has become an uphill battle between business and labor with big implications for other states weighing similar regulations.

After the concert companies refused to comply with AB 5 and threatened with pulling out of California, Proposition 22 offers a different pay structure that they say makes more sense for on-demand work. The measure offers drivers 120% of the minimum wage, subsidies for health care and reimbursement of certain expenses. The catch: drivers would only be paid for the “commitment time”, when there is a passenger or an order in the car, not to mention the 28%33% of time on applications usually spent waiting for work.

If voters approve Proposition 22, it would not be easy to change course. While tech companies often preach iteration, the measure requires an unusually high qualified majority of 7/8 – a political near-impossibility even in dark blue California – for lawmakers to subsequently change salary requirements or other provisions, including a ban on driver unions.

“This is an extremely dangerous precedent,” said Ken Jacobs, president of UC Berkeley’s Labor Center. In a study presented by worker groups opposed to Proposition 22, Jacobs estimated that after waiting time and expenses, drivers could make as low as $ 5.64 per hour with the prop. 22. “They just acted like the law didn’t apply to them and assumed they could bring in enough money, gain enough political power, to bend the law as they pleased.”

This is “bulls – propaganda” for Christopher Thornberg, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at UC Riverside School of Business. He was commissioned by Lyft and DoorDash to study driver compensation and, using lower wait times and expense, argues that the driver pays after the prop. 22 is more likely to be between $ 25 and $ 27 per hour. (Jacobs, in turn, supports that Thornberg’s estimates are inflated).

San Jose photographer Brian Oden, 43, supports Prop. 22 after using the income from Instacart, Postmates, Uber and Lyft to develop his own business. Photo: Courtesy of Brian Oden

The high-stakes showdown over how to pay concert workers in the country’s most populous state is also happening in places like Seattle and New York approve new minimum wage requirements for Uber and Lyft drivers. While Lyft said in a statement that 10,000 fewer drivers were working on the app after the rule change, initial reports from task forces revealed a modest drop in ridership and a 10% increase in wages for New York drivers as the prices of trips rose on average 5% to 10%. .

In California, Uber predicted that fares would increase 25% –111% in different parts of the state if the company were forced to comply with AB 5, and the number of active drivers could drop by three-quarters.

Brian Oden doesn’t want to risk his job as a driver to become an employee. The San Jose photographer has taken turns working for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates, and Instacart over the past five years. He plans to vote yes on the prop. 22 after making between $ 150 and $ 175 a day on Instacart during the pandemic, allowing him to pay both rent and moonlight as a documentary filmmaker during the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

“I would do concerts during the day and then I would go out and film rallies, video speeches,” Oden said. “It’s very important to have this freedom to do whatever you want.

Do the math on driving

It’s more of an art than a science for Valdez to predict how much he’ll earn driving for Uber and Lyft. It doesn’t focus on earnings per hour and instead targets $ 1 to $ 1.50 per mile for 100 to 200 miles per shift. The math has changed as rideshare companies chasing their first profits are increasing commissions and driver incentives, which are marketed as a way to make quick cash on a flexible schedule.

Although Valdez is the type of part-time driver that the Yes on 22 campaign says would benefit the most from the measure, he has gone in the opposite direction and is now an organizer of Rideshare Drivers United. Ultimately, he hopes that dismissing Proposition 22 could lead to a workers’ union negotiating commissions with concert companies, like taxis have done before them.

“The only thing flexibility does is give me more time to earn the same amount of money,” Valdez said. “The stability is not there.”

But how much do application pilots earn on average? Although it seems like a simple question, the concert worker pays is darkened through less than unbiased research, variation in how drivers use apps, ability of contract workers to deduct expenses from their taxes, corporate skepticism about how much drivers work while waiting for errands, and the fact that concert companies have kept full payroll data close to the chest.

Ben Valdez, an LA Uber and Lyft driver, says predicting his salary on apps is
Pilot Ben Valdez opposes prop. 22. Photo by Tash Kimmell for Cal Matters

The wide array of studies on gig worker compensation can be dizzying, and most focus on Uber or Lyft. A 2018 MIT report estimated that drivers earn an average of $ 3.37 an hour after spending, but the author revised figure at $ 8.55 after a dispute with Uber. In May, Stanford calculated $ 21 per hour before taxes or expenses. A july cornell study commissioned by Uber found that a small number of full-time drivers earn an average of $ 17.40 an hour, but factoring in drivers who work less pushed hourly earnings to $ 23.25.

In California, the office of the legislative analyst advises Prop. 22 voters that “most drivers probably earn between $ 11 and $ 16 an hour” after waiting time and expenses. At the heart of many reports on the impact of the ballot measure is disagreement over the requirement for a “floor wage” or minimum wage and the benefits that drivers should earn, rather than leaving drivers behind. try their luck by finding more lucrative routes.

According to prop. 22, according to a statement from Lyft provided to CalMatters, “drivers are paid for the work they actually do.” Since the waiting time between customers would not be paid, they are “free to do other things when they are not commuting, such as shopping or even working on other platforms” . The task forces argue that all jobs – receptionist, grocery clerk, lawyer – include downtime and other workers are paid for that time.

“They have no incentive to control the wait time,” Jacobs said. “The more drivers circling the road without passengers in the car, the more willing they are to pick up a passenger.”

“There are options, but they’re already keeping people part-time anyway. They’ll find a way to fuck people if they want to.

Brian ODEN, worker from San José Gig, In today’s job market

Concert companies could choose to voluntarily release more data on average driver wait times or take-home pay to challenge studies on lower driver earnings. Thornberg argues that data must “be confidential” to protect personal information about drivers and customers, although the aggregation of anonymized data is common in the tech industry.

The clash over driver pay is also reminiscent of other major business-labor confrontations, such as minimum wage and past tax hikes, which have triggered similar warnings of significant job losses if companies do not win. “If Prop. 22 doesn’t pass, AB 5 kicks in,” Thornberg said. “If AB 5 kicks in, we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

For Oden, the pilot who supports the prop. 22, the controversy is exaggerated. He applied for jobs at Amazon facilities and elsewhere, but he doesn’t like fixed hours, and it’s not like it’s a bastion of stability, either.

“There are options, but they’re already keeping people part-time anyway,” Oden said. “They’ll find a way to fuck people if they want to.”

Updated October 6, 2020 to add New York driver data and include contractor tax deductions.

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