By Tyler Breisacher
Collaborator to The Guardsman
By now you’ve probably heard the promises of Prop 22: a guaranteed wage, a promise of flexibility, and other benefits for “gig workers” such as Uber drivers or Postmates couriers. In fact, the proposition would lower wages, reduce flexibility, and prevent workers from receiving other benefits. Gig companies have spent over $180 million to mislead voters, making it the most expensive ballot measure campaign in California history.
When I started at City College last year, it was the first time I was without a job in almost ten years. I knew that schoolwork would take up most of my time but I wanted to earn some money as well. I didn’t have a car or a bicycle, so when I discovered that Postmates allowed couriers to deliver on foot, I thought I would give it a try.
The promise of flexibility was enticing. I would be able to put classes and homework first, and just work when I had some downtime. But I quickly found that the work wasn’t nearly as flexible as it seemed, and had many other downsides, as well. It’s common to make even less than minimum wage, and there are no legal protections in case of injury or sickness.
The flexibility is, admittedly, quite nice. Once I signed up, I could go online anytime I wanted to, without scheduling a shift in advance. However, workers are only paid for their deliveries or rides, not for time spent in-between “gigs,” so they risk making almost no wages at all by going online when it’s not busy. Overall, a UC Berkeley study found that about a third of gig workers’ time is spent in between gigs. In other words, they have the flexibility to “work” whenever we want, so long as they don’t mind that a third of their time is paid at $0.00 per hour.
The other element of so-called “flexibility” is the right to reject orders — but doing so is a gamble. After rejecting an order (generally because the pay is insultingly low), another one might not come along for quite a while, putting the worker back in that $0.00 per hour mode. Prop 22 promises “120% of minimum wage” but since that only includes “engaged time,” and allows companies to underpay for expenses like gasoline, that still leaves the overall pay rate well below minimum wage.
If this weren’t bad enough, Prop 22 actually allows companies to make the work less flexible. A detailed analysis from the Pay Up campaign notes that if the proposition passes, companies will not be able to “unilaterally” schedule shifts, but they could force workers to choose from a limited number of shifts. They would not be able to deactivate workers for rejecting any specific job, but they could deactivate anyone whose acceptance rate is too low.
And when workers are deactivated, they are ineligible for unemployment insurance and would remain so under Prop 22. It’s one of many workers’ rights that companies will continue to deny if this proposition passes, including sick leave, worker’s compensation, and overtime pay.
Simply put, companies like Uber and Doordash would rather spend $180 million trying to buy their own law than provide the basic labor rights and protections that every other employer is required to provide.
Stand with essential workers and vote No on Prop 22.