By Maria Rodriguez
I’m a single mom with three daughters who works as a school secretary in San Diego. Money is always tight, but usually I can make ends meet. That changed last year when I had to take unpaid furlough days.
Suddenly, I was unable to pay all my bills and — it’s hard to even write this — my girls were going to bed hungry. I knew I needed to make extra money quickly but my fulltime job and commitments with my daughters limited my options.
Rideshare driving saved us.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into but told myself I could stop driving at any point if I didn’t like it. I’ve been driving now for a year and I love it. Most importantly, I love no longer having to worry about going without a paycheck. I can finally pay my bills, I bought a car and was able to buy a house from my uncle. And now I’m able to give my daughters the things every parent wants to give their children – things that just last year were out of reach.
But now a new state law creates a lot of uncertainty for drivers like me. Authored by my assemblymember, Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, the stated objective of Assembly Bill 5 is to try to make app-based drivers like me employees as of January 1, 2020.
While it’s unclear how the law will impact drivers, forcing us to become employees leaves no assurance that this work will remain readily available, which would be devastating for hundreds of thousands of us. It could eliminate work opportunities in California by shoehorning app-based drivers into rigid employment schedules whether we prefer it or not.
It would completely strip drivers like us of the choice to work flexible work schedules as independent contractors. For drivers who do this to supplement our income, being an employee could be the end of our ability to drive and support our families this way.
It’s clear to me that a one-size-fits-all approach will hurt the very people it intends to help.
I’m a proud union member, and while I wish that one job was enough, that’s out of reach for many like me. Today, so many Californians need the option to pick up extra income that doesn’t come with the demands of a second job. Like so many other working moms, to support my family I greatly value having the flexibility that rideshare offers.
This is the reality for many other app-based rideshare and delivery drivers I talk to. I’ve met drivers who are students paying for college, parents who drive around their kids’ schedules, and seniors who need a little extra cash or want the social connections. I’ve even met full-time drivers who want to remain independent so they can drive when and where they want, take time off when they like and not have to get permission or adhere to a set schedule.
Fortunately, more than 27,000 drivers now back a ballot measure aiming for the November election. The measure, called the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act, would protect the right of app-based rideshare and delivery drivers to continue to choose flexible work as independent contractors so we can dictate when, where and how long we want to work.
It also provides app-based rideshare and delivery drivers with a minimum earning guarantee – while preserving our ability to always earn more – a health care stipend after driving just 15 hours a week and insurance protections similar to worker’s compensation. And the measure includes public safety protections for customers and the general public.
This measure pairs the flexibility so many of us need to do app-based rideshare and delivery work, with new benefits and protections that provide even greater economic certainty and stability.
It’s unfortunate that my local assemblymember, the Legislature and the Governor ignored the will of thousands of app-based drivers who are choosing this work as a way to get ahead. Now it’s time for voters to take matters into our own hands by passing the ballot measure.
Maria Rodriguez is a single mother of three who works as a school secretary and drives rideshare on the side to make ends meet. She is also a resident of the 80th Assembly District in south San Diego County.