By Patricia Mulholland
Five years ago, traditional jobs stopped being an option for me. As a retired, disabled Vietnam veteran and a caretaker for an ill family member, I needed to earn a living that kept the stress down but the flexibility up so I could meet my family obligations.
Driving rideshare has allowed me to do that, especially now during these tough economic times. But all that could come to a crashing end under a new California law passed last year by out-of-touch politicians who’ve never spent a day in my shoes.
The new law, AB5, would prevent app-based drivers like me from working as independent contractors with control over our schedules. It would force drivers to become employees, and that means all the burdens that come with it – set shifts, flat wages and limits on who could drive.
It’s hard to imagine, but this law could destroy up to 900,000 app-based jobs alone in California, at a time when nearly 4 million Californians have been thrown out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporters say they’re doing this for drivers, but 71 percent of app-based drivers want to remain independent contractors and we prefer this type of work.
Today, app-based services are more vital than ever, not only for the drivers but also for our communities. We deliver groceries, meals and medicine to seniors and families who need to stay in their homes. We help small businesses and restaurants survive by connecting them with new customers and existing customers who haven’t been able to leave their homes. And we help essential workers who don’t own their own vehicle and can’t take public transit get to work. All this would be in jeopardy if we upend how these services operate.
But we app-based drivers are fighting back with a new measure that just qualified for the November ballot, the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act. This measure is the middle-ground answer that both drivers and our customers are looking for, and will protect our choice to work as independent contractors with app-based platforms while providing us with new earning guarantees and benefits.
If passed, drivers will earn at least 120 percent of minimum wage, plus compensation toward expenses. We’ll receive a health care contribution and be protected by occupational accident insurance to cover injuries and illnesses. And most importantly, it will protect our ability to drive when, where and with whatever platform we want.
In a few months, voters in California will have the chance to fix the wrongs in state law that threaten the flexibility and earning opportunities for app-based drivers. We can make sure that anyone who finds themselves in a tough position, like I did five years ago, can turn to work as an independent contractor to earn money on their own time. I urge my fellow residents to join me in protecting app-based jobs and services this November.
Patricia Mulholland is a Vietnam veteran and Uber driver from Marin County, CA.