Uber Drivers Just Want to Be Free
California passed a bill that will help some gig workers, but not all of them want to be classified as employees.
Drivers are at the heart of the ride-share business. They’re also at the heart of the debate over a bill approved by California’s legislature, A.B. 5, which aims to solidify gig workers’ legal status as employees. Uber and Lyft have always classified drivers as independent contractors. But many lawsuits over the years, by drivers and others, have put that classification under question. A.B.5 is intended to help drivers by creating a set of criteria under which Uber or Lyft drivers could be considered employees of those companies, and therefore entitled to the benefits and protections of employees.
So why would some drivers be against it?
I spent nearly a year driving part time for Uber and Lyft, and then left my job as an engineer to cover the industry full-time through my blog “The Rideshare Guy.” After thousands of conversations with drivers, I’ve found that while they come from all walks of life, one of the main reasons they value this work is flexibility. As a driver, you can work almost as much or as little as you want, cash out your pay instantly, take a break at a moment’s notice, or even go on a six-month vacation. This flexibility and that feeling of not having a boss makes ride-hail driving stand out in the vast array of service jobs and low-wage work.
Despite what Uber and Lyft are telling drivers, there is nothing in the text of A.B. 5 that would take that flexibility away. And yet, many drivers are worried that they will lose it.
I think it’s because they are scared. There are plenty of negatives to driving for Uber and Lyft, but for a lot of drivers, the thought of becoming an employee is even worse.