Earlier this month, a California Superior Court judge ruled the state’s Proposition 22 voting initiative unconstitutional. The decision was a huge victory for workers – not only the pay-as-you-go workers, but all those who work for a living, all of whom have a stake in ensuring that hard-earned labor rights, however inadequate, are not are not further undermined.
To recap: Proposition 22 is the landmark anti-labor law written by so-called gig companies that defines a separate set of standards for people who work for app-based entities like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. The companies spent some $ 200 million promoting the California state ballot measure. The whole campaign has paid off: in November of last year, voters approved the measure. In doing so, they have enabled these companies to avoid the costs and responsibilities of being an employer: minimum wage and overtime laws, workers compensation, health insurance, sick leave and protection. against discrimination in the workplace.
Despite the recent court ruling, Proposition 22 remains on the books: the decision will almost certainly be appealed to the California Supreme Court, and the case likely won’t be resolved for another year. In the meantime, these companies are busy releasing Prop 22 clones to other states.
One of the strategies gig companies used to confuse voters and drivers was to tout the benefits workers would receive in exchange for surrendering their rights. Prop 22 supporters said drivers would be paid at least 120% of local minimums while actively driving. This “active driving” is key: Since a driver’s shift consists of time between trips or tasks, the pay is much less than that. A UC Berkeley study estimates that the effective average salary under Proposition 22 is as low as $ 5.64.
Another promise was that drivers would receive a health care allowance. The fine print on this one is expansive: Workers must spend at least twenty-five ‘committed’ hours per week driving – excluding the time between trips – and be the primary insured of a plan to access the full allowance. And that allowance is a far cry from the overall cost of health insurance: Uber offers a maximum of $ 400 per month, far less than the average premium for a family.
A new report examines how drivers access and do not access benefits. The study was conducted by Rideshare Drivers United (RDU), an organization of concert workers, and National Equity Atlas, which surveyed 531 California RDU members between May and June 2021, all of whom drive for Uber, Lyft or otherwise. application-based businesses.
The study finds that many drivers do not receive the health care benefits promised, even when they are entitled to them. Ten percent of the drivers surveyed receive the allowance. Forty percent “have never heard of their ability to claim benefits or were not sure whether they received a notification.” Latino drivers are particularly unlikely to be aware of the allowance – half of those surveyed either do not remember receiving a notification about it or are unsure of it.
The report finds that 16 percent of those surveyed go without health insurance, double the national rate of uninsured. A driver told reporters that although he did not have insurance, he had visited a hospital emergency room twice in the past year for medical treatment.
Another 29 percent of those surveyed rely on Medi-Cal, the public health care option primarily reserved for people below 138 percent of the poverty line.
“I thought I would get free insurance,” a driver told the authors, explaining why, although he didn’t vote for the Prop 22, he supported it. He relies on Medi-Cal to cover his expenses, for example when his son has had a medical emergency. “I worry about myself. I’m almost fifty years old and I don’t know what’s going to happen if I keep driving for Uber and Lyft, ”he said.
Another driver who does not log enough hours to receive the health care allowance told the authors that because he lived in Tecate, near the Mexican border, he was traveling through Mexico to receive health care. .
These results are consistent with a previous study – conducted by Tulchin Research and commissioned by SEIU – showing that drivers “receive little information” about the benefits, with many drivers unaware of it at all.
“Rather than rectifying the problems facing application-based drivers, Proposition 22 has heightened drivers’ vulnerability to health and safety risks as well as feelings of confusion and disillusionment,” the report concludes. As to how to solve the problem, in the short term, the authors recommend removing restrictions on health care allowance. “The allowance should cover 100% of the average monthly premium for a Covered California Bronze plan. The total working time of the drivers, rather than the committed working time, should be taken into account when calculating the qualification of the allowance, ”they write.
Longer term, the authors advocate the repeal of Proposition 22 – RDU opposed the legislation from the start, one of many workers’ organizations that immediately saw it for what it was: a anti-union, anti-worker bill that locks down app-based drivers as second-class citizens. While it is possible that Prop 22 will be overturned by the courts, the report notes that lawmakers in other states will have to prevent the passage of Prop 22 clones, like the one being pushed into Massachusetts.
At the federal level, the report calls for passage of the PRO Act, a labor law reform bill that would go a long way in properly classifying app-based drivers as workers rather than independent contractors, in addition to strengthen workers’ rights in all sectors. In addition, there is the issue of single-payer health insurance, which would eliminate the dependence of workers on an employer for health insurance.
Proposition 22 may be destined to be struck down as its authors have grown greedy pushing for a bill designed to support the employment model of the odd-job economy, but so far thousands of people still work under his regime, excluded from the basic standards which are their right. This new study adds evidence to what workers who opposed the ballot measure have argued from the start: Proposition 22 aimed to save employers money and liability. Any legislation drafted by the rulers of the odd-job economy and their ilk always will be.