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According to the State of California, we are misclassified employees.
As the California Supreme Court ruled in the April 2018 Dynamex decision, an independent contractor is a worker who meets all three of the following criteria:
A) the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; and
(B) the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
(C) the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.
Uber and Lyft both know that drivers do not meet these standards, and that’s why they are scared. Because being an employee means that those companies need to provide drivers with the benefits and protections that other workers get, like a guaranteed minimum wage, payment into Social Security and Medicare, worker’s compensation, and overtime.
It also means that Uber and Lyft drivers would have a right to a voice on the job, and to bargain with their boss.
In other words, being treated like the employees that we are puts us on course to achieving many of the demands in our Driver’s Bill of Rights.
No, these are scare tactics the companies are using to force drivers to cede their rights as employees.
Since an employee in California is any worker who does not meet the Dynamex ABC test, you are already an employee by law.
Uber and Lyft wouldn’t have to change a thing that you like about your current work arrangement. They’d simply have to follow the law and provide you with the benefits you are already entitled.
Uber and Lyft don’t want the State to protect your rights, because then drivers could actually have a voice on the job. When they say California drivers are independent contractors, they aren’t defending flexibility; they are denying you the real freedom that comes with the right to a union.
Uber/Lyft could decide to schedule you now, since they are already in violation of California’s labor standards, just like they change how much drivers are paid per mile or take away bonuses with no consultation. The only thing to protect against those dictatorial decisions is to be given the same rights as other employees so that we can negotiate our working conditions.
AB5 was introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez from San Diego, and it has the support of the California Federation of Labor. The bill has been passed by the state assembly. It now needs to go to the Senate, and to be signed by Gov. Newsom.
Essentially, AB5 writes the Court’s Dynamex decision into law, giving it real teeth and demonstrating that California is serious about enforcing worker rights.
Rideshare drivers should support AB5 because it opens up real possibilities for drivers to achieve our aims in the Driver’s Bill of Rights: fair pay, transparency, a voice on the job, and community standards.
In their op-ed, Uber and Lyft CEOs claim that they are willing to work with labor groups, but RDU has not heard from them.
Really, Uber and Lyft want a return to company unions of the 1920s (fake unions, , before workers had the right to a voice on the job.
Uber and Lyft want these “worker associations” so that they can continue to control us. They want to keep us from using the greatest weapon that workers have—the strike.
And the companies are clear that these associations they want to creat would never result in legal contracts between drivers and the companies. They still want to be able to change anything at whim.
Our strikes on 3/25 and 5/8 scared Uber and Lyft. We badly hurt their IPOs. We directed media attention to Uber/Lyft’s unjust practices.
And we showed drivers around the world that we come together, build organizations, and make change.
According to federal law, company unions are illegal for employees. Uber/Lyft can create company unions only if they keep pretending that we are independent contractors.
Passing AB5 help protect our right to build our own organization. It would tell Uber/Lyft that they can’t trick us into giving up our voice.
It’s true, in the year since Dynamex, Uber/Lyft have been talking to Sacramento lawmakers hoping to chip away at the law. They want exemptions from AB5 so that they can continue to treat rideshare drivers differently from the rest of the workforce.
By supporting AB5, we can have a voice in the process and fight to make sure these exemptions aren’t made. We can tell our allies in the government that we need their help after the bill passes, to make sure that the law is enforced and that our right to organize and bargain is protected.
Maybe—but only by embracing our status as employees do we have a leg to stand on. We can’t claim the benefits of employment while agreeing with Uber and Lyft that we are independent contractors. By passing AB5, we can begin to have conversations like that.
A third category would weaken the kinds of protections most US workers enjoy under employee classification. Remember—Uber and Lyft will not have to change anything about scheduling, about where you drive, or about who you could drive for.
We may not want to think of ourselves as "working for" Uber or Lyft—most of us would probably rather work for ourselves. But by accepting the “employee” classification and fighting for AB5, we gain the right to change those companies into something we can be proud of.
Many of them do, and it’s a growing problem.
AB5 isn’t just about rideshare drivers; it has been introduced because across the economy businesses are trying to get away with denying worker rights on a technicality.
By passing AB5, we can stop the clock from going backwards on workers’ rights. We will make sure that workers in all industries across California are given their protections they deserve.