By Sheri Williams
In legislation that is being closely watched across the nation and championed by unions, California may soon crack down on businesses that exploit workers by misclassifying them as contract employees to avoid paying fair wages and benefits. Currently, many gig workers in the ride-sharing industry don’t even make minimum wage. Misclassification also makes it more difficult for workers to organize.
A bill currently being considered in the state Senate, Assembly Bill 5 by labor champion Lorena Gonzalez, would codify into law a Supreme Court decision that puts in place a clear test for when companies must classify workers as employees. Many companies that rely on gig workers have ignored that ruling, called the Dynamex case. Ride sharing companies Lyft and Uber are lobbying hard to defeat AB 5, and have allegedly pressured their drivers to oppose the measure.
“A lot of workers in California and throughout the nation have been misclassified for years,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez, D-San Diego, said in media. “There’s a whole list of things people are entitled to as employees that they don’t get as independent contractors — minimum wage, overtime, wage and hour rules, sick leave, paid family leave, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and in some instances health care.”
The CEOs of Uber and Lyft are so desperate to continue breaking the law that they are making vague promises to improve working conditions for drivers in exchange for getting around the Dynamex decision, according to the California Labor Federation.
“Don’t be fooled. These empty promises aren’t what drivers want or deserve,” it said in a statement. “Rideshare drivers and all workers in the gig economy want the same rights of employees: a living wage, protections if laid off or injured, health insurance and retirement. In fact, according to a recent Ispos national poll, 87 percentof drivers say they want these types of protections.”
Assembly Bill 5 has passed out of the Assembly and will be debated in the Senate in coming weeks.
“This is a key piece of legislation that is vital to the future of work in California,” said Fabrizio Sasso, head of the Sacramento Central Labor Council. “It’s unconscionable that companies are exploiting their workers this way, not even giving minimum wage much less a living wage. We have to stand together to protect the dignity of work.”