By Faith Bautista

May marks Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month – a time to recognize the contributions of our community to the history and culture of the United States while paying tribute to the generations who have come before us.

It is also a time to acknowledge the disparities and injustices we have faced and honor the perseverance of our community.

This is especially true over the last two years, as our AAPI brothers and sisters have faced increased marginalization, bigotry, and hate crimes – all while navigating the economic uncertainty and health risks associated with a global pandemic.

At the National Diversity Coalition, we have been advocating for financial equality and equal opportunity for the underserved and diverse communities. The National Asian American Coalition is also focused on helping people from AAPI communities realize lifelong financial stability and economic empowerment. With increasing unemployment numbers, job uncertainty, and changing markets, we have been hard at work to help our community survive during these uncertain times.

Thankfully, app-based work available through platforms such as DoorDash, Instacart, Uber, and Lyft, has provided Californians with the opportunity to earn extra income, work with flexible schedules, and have the real financial stability that the National Diversity Coalition and the National Asian American Coalition is dedicated to providing for our community.

In 2020, voters approved Proposition 22, which protected the independence of ride share and food delivery driver jobs and has given guaranteed earnings and access to health care for drivers. Our AAPI community has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the additional earnings and flexibility have been especially important as we slowly rebuild and recover from the last two years.

On the heels of that ballot victory, researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) evaluated the impact of app-based work on workers and our economy. The result was an in-depth analysis looking at driver earnings and drivers’ satisfaction after the law’s implementation and the results were encouraging for our community.

The study found that from September 2020 through September 2021, more than 1.3 million Californians chose to work as app-based drivers across four major platforms. As many Californians lost work or reduced income due to the pandemic or decided the traditional 9-to-5 no longer worked for them, app-based work provided an immediate way to earn income. And for our community, this rings especially true. According to the report, 14% of drivers surveyed identified as Asian Pacific Islanders.

As services and demand for ride share and food delivery platforms grow, so have driver earnings, which is why the National Diversity Coalition and the National Asian American Coalition are proud to support the coalition of drivers, community advocates, businesses, and others that are working to protect app-based drivers and services.

According to the UC Riverside report, app-based drivers earned more than $4.3 billion from September 2020 through September 2021 across the four platforms. Including tips, drivers in California averaged $34.46 per hour in the third quarter of 2021 which is more than double the state’s new minimum wage.

That figure represents a gross increase of 26% over the last two years when compared to $27.34 per hour in the third quarter of 2019. That’s valuable earning that has a tangible impact on helping our community achieve financial security.

Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of app-based drivers (82%) reported being satisfied with their work, and three-quarters said they preferred their status as independent contractors.

Another trend showed that most app-based drivers are using these platforms to earn supplemental income, often working part-time, with no intention of turning it into a full-time position. In fact, 77% of respondents reported working with platforms on a part-time basis or only occasionally.

Considering this data, it’s clear that app-based services and work are a growing and increasingly important part of California’s economy – largely because it fits workers’ desires to assert more control over their work lives.

This study shows independent app-based work is essential for hundreds of thousands of Californians, including our AAPI community who have come to rely on the flexibility and endless opportunity for their own stability. It is high time we realize the financial inequality and empower as well as support the underserved communities to help them build on their American dream.

Faith Bautista is the President and CEO of both the National Diversity and the National Asian American Coalition.

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