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Uber in California | Directors divided on referendum to determine their future

(Oakland) “If you're a driver, you're nothing to Uber,” says Karim Benkanoun. He is one of the Californian drivers who would like to be recognized as an employee, not self-employed, and will vote “no” on November 3 to the compromise of the Chauffeured Car Reservation Giant (VTC).

Posted Oct 18, 2020 at 7:44 am

Julie JAMMOT
Agence France-Presse

"They see us as entrepreneurs, but we have nothing to say about the contract," he explains. "They are masters of the relationship, they decide everything for us".

On November 3, election day in the United States, California citizens are also called upon to vote on "Proposition 22," drafted by Uber and Lyft, its US competitor, to maintain their economic model.

PHOTO JOSH EDELSON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS

These groups refuse to apply the state law, which came into force in January, which obliges them to reclassify their tens of thousands of drivers into employees, and therefore to give them social benefits grant (health and unemployment insurance, paid vacation, overtime, etc.).

Such a transformation would represent a significant investment for the leaders of the "gig" economy, who have never been able to turn a profit.

Instead, they offer compensation: a guaranteed minimum income, a contribution to health insurance and other insurance, depending on the number of hours worked per week.

Flexibility

“That's their big word: flexibility! Sharkee says, behind the wheel of his minivan, behind the transparent tarpaulin that he has stuck between the seats.

This driver has been driving for Uber in San Francisco for five years. feels cornered by the company, whose promises resonate with him as intimidation.

“They threaten to shut down everything or limit our hours. But I want to become an employee, have paid vacation and no longer work 15 hours a day!

Sergei Fyodorov, on the other hand, appreciates the opportunity to work when he wants, that is, especially on weekends, when he goes from home to his family for an hour.

This manager drives a technology company because he likes to "meet people" and also earns extra income, especially between two jobs.

"That was the basic idea: earn extra income", he emphasizes. "If you can live off it, all the better, […] but for it is me especially useful during college or unemployed. "

According to Lyft, 86% of California drivers drive less than 20 hours a week and want to stay in control of their schedule because they are college students, retired, or in other jobs.

"Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost" if Proposition 22 were defeated, said Geoff Vetter, spokesman for the "Yes" campaign. "Although these services seem to be ubiquitous in our lives, they are less than ten years old."

"Cheap"

"They want to undo decades of labor laws we've fought for," said Erica Mighetto, holding a sign saying "No to Proposition 22". near the Oakland airport. other activists from the Rideshare Drivers United group.

Four years ago she started carrying passengers. She was a resident of Sacramento and came to sleep in her car on four-day weekends in San Francisco Bay.

"At $ 40 gross an hour, it seemed like it was worth it," she recalls. "But before the pandemic, it was only $ 20."

Most drivers in the area saw their incomes drop as more drivers joined the platform.

If Proposition 22 wins, drivers earn between $ 25 and $ 28 an hour, net of expenses, according to a study from UC Riverside University funded by Lyft.

But a year ago, two researchers at the University of Berkeley determined that the minimum income guaranteed by the two companies would be only $ 5.64 per hour, after "taking many elements into consideration", they said, as the waiting time or the wear and tear of the vehicle.

"Uber works because it is cheap and fast," Uber engineer Kurt Nelson argued in an op-ed on TechCrunch, calling for a "no" vote.

“But it only works thanks to the countless drivers who wait completely unpaid for the next race. The workers subsidize the product with their free labor ”.

Written by Rahis

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