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Uber and Lyft don't have a right to exist (jalopnik.com)
86 points by ausbah 44 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 113 comments



[California Assembly Bill 5] would suck Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy platforms out of their legal vacuum and into well-defined orbits of labor law. It would be doing so in a way that tracks with the reality of their businesses and a common-sense definition of what an “employee” is.

I don't think that a common sense definition of what an "employee" is includes "show up to work whenever you want, take whatever breaks you want, knock off whenever you want, show up wherever you want, work for another company at the same instant you're working for us, get paid for jobs completed rather than hours worked, have a genuine prospect to show a profit or loss, use your own equipment" and likely several other key elements of the Uber/Lyft driver-company relationship.

I agree they're not 100% independent either, but I tend to view them as more independent than employees.


> I don't think that a common sense definition of what an "employee" is includes "show up to work whenever you want, take whatever breaks you want, knock off whenever you want, show up wherever you want,

from the article:

> Uber and lyft have hung their legal hat on the idea that drivers are not workers because they have flexibility. This has never been the criteria on which courts have ruled if workers are employees.


That the article which makes a claim to which I object makes an additional (unsubstantiated/uncited) claim that their former claim is true is not independent evidence, IMO. (see also: proof by repeated assertion)

Excerpts from the IRS "20 questions" test of employee vs contractor [0]:

Work for multiple companies. People who simultaneously provide services for several unrelated companies are likely to qualify as independent contractors.

Flexibility of schedule. People whose hours or days of work are dictated by a company are apt to qualify as its employees.

Demands for full-time work. Full-time work gives a company control over most of a person's time, which supports a finding of an employment relationship.

Need for on-site services. Requiring someone to work on company premises— particularly if the work can be performed elsewhere—indicates a possible employment relationship.

Method of payment. Hourly, weekly, or monthly pay schedules are characteristic of employment relationships, unless the payments simply are a convenient way of distributing a lump-sum fee. Payment on commission or project completion is more characteristic of independent contractor relationships.

Provision of tools and materials. Workers who perform most of their work using company-provided equipment, tools, and materials are more likely to be considered employees. Work largely done using independently obtained supplies or tools supports an independent contractor finding.

Realization of profit or loss. Workers who receive predetermined earnings and have little chance to realize significant profit or loss through their work generally are employees.

I acknowledge that there are other tests which lean towards employee, but it's far from slam dunk, settled law IMO, and flexibility is quite obviously one factor that courts consider.

[0] - https://www.oregon.gov/ODA/shared/Documents/Publications/Nat...


I think you misunderstood how this is considered 13/20 of these items point to employees with several others like Level of instruction being arguable as it’s highly directed.

Anyway, these are employe: Amount of training, Degree of business integration, Extent of personal services, Control of assistants, Continuity of relationship, Sequence of work, Requirements for reports, Method of payment, Realization of profit or loss, Work for multiple companies, Availability to public, Control over discharge, Right of termination

For clarity:

Work for multiple companies at the same time: Not simultaneously, Uber actively excludes people from working for multiple companies while logged into their app, so this counts on the employees side. Even just penalizing people for rejecting rides is treating them as employees.

Realization of profit or loss Uber pays people based on the trip in such a way people can’t become significantly more efficient and thus increase profit for a trip.

PS: Degree of business integration is one of the most damaging, Uber has zero business model without drivers. But even Amount of training suggests employees as you don’t require a training course from your plumber you expect them to be able to solve your problems not work as part of your system.


It would be interesting indeed if uber was somehow specifically prohibited from penalizing drivers for rejecting rides. That and the ability to set notifications when rates reached some preferred threshold that they were interested in. Everyone could set a reasonable threshold and hold off until it was met.


This is the single most critical issue for Uber’s long term viability.

If Drivers can work for multiple companies at the same time Uber loses almost all leverage over drivers and thus can’t develop a long term competitive advantage. It’s a 50+ billion dollar issue for the company.


In my reading, basically every one of those points to Uber/Lyft drivers being contractors...


Please read the article, which discusses a California Supreme Court ruling on this very topic. Right now, you got like a paragraph in and went to commenting. That's not helpful.


(I did read the entire article before commenting.) A California Supreme Court ruling seems to have no bearing on whether Uber and Lyft "have a right to exist".

At most, that ruling would affect whether or not they can operate as today within California.


Don’t accuse people of not reading the article. It’s against the site guidelines.


A question: are those criteria part of a definition or hints?

Possesion of certain amounts of illegal drugs hints that someone's a dealer, but it's not the definition. Selling is.

The real definition of employee seems more related to a higher dependence on the employer.

Looking closer at the points you quote gives a different vision. As an example: owning of tools and materials is actually a burden for the worker. A car, including maintenance, is a significant financial investment. Forcing workers to provide them doesn't make them less dependent on the company, on the contrary.

Similar objections can be put on the rest of criteria. With realization of profit I agree, but are you sure that works well everywhere and for everybody? I suspect that's not the case outside rich areas.


I didn’t quite get that paragraph, because flexibility of schedule is an important criteria for determining if someone is an employee or a contractor in most of the the US! (In California this isn’t true as of fairly recently, but most of the rest of the country still uses a 20-point set of factors that includes schedule flexibility)

https://www.oregon.gov/ODA/shared/Documents/Publications/Nat...


"Well, actually..."

Lots of companies are very flexible about employees setting their own hours.

Lots of companies in the service business do not care whether an employee has a second job with another company, even a "competitor."

The issue around getting paid for jobs completed is absolutely a non-issue. Lots of employees are paid for piece-work, or equivalently have paid-for-performance structures.

The issue is whether such payment can drop below minimum-wage laws, and the answer in law is, "no."

So, frankly, while Uber and Lyft are certainly doing their best to act like their drivers are not employees, the criteria you give here do not disqualify them from being considered employees, as there are a non-trivial number of companies that have arrangements like this with their employees.

I'm left to think that it is certainly reasonable for a court to consider all these issues in aggregate and make a determination. It does not strike me as "obvious" either way.


> Lots of companies in the service business do not care whether an employee has a second job with another company, even a "competitor."

Absolutely none of them will let you be on the clock with a competitor at the same time you're on the clock with them.


Neither do Uber or Lyft. No driver performs an Uber ride and a Lyft ride at the same point in time.


Could it be because these companies are paying you to be on the clock while Uber and Lyft are not?


I don't think they said it would disqualify them, just that those arrangements are far more common in independent work. I would say it is rare to find those attributes in employee relationships, even rarer to find all of them.


Well, it is absolutely true that Uber and Lyft are unique. That’s their entire philosophy, to be different than what has come before.

But in doing so, they open themselves to the following reasoning: “Just as they bring a new and hitherto unique model for transportation companies, they also bring a new and hitherto unique model for employer-employee relationships.”

They are by definition unicorns, so while the courts may rule that their drivers are contractors, if they were to rule that the drivers are employees, it seems appropriate to accept that its relationship with its employees would also be unique.


>completed is absolutely a non-issue. Lots of employees are paid for piece-work, or equivalently have paid-for-performance structures.

Yes, those people are called "contractors"


I'm a software developer, very clearly an employee, and except for the last item in your list, all of this applies to me as well.

I don't care that they're slightly more independent. They're paid far less, and they deserve the same kind of legal protections.


You can "work for another company at the same instant you're working for [your current one]"? What about a direct competitor?

Do you actually get paid per job worked, and not salary? How does that work? What metrics do you use to determine the amount of work done? This is a genuine question. Most setups like this I've seen are with freelancers, and those are contractors.


That would be the last item on the list, which I specifically excluded.


I was asking about the 3rd and 4th to last items on the list...


I thought I was an employee at my second role as a developer. Found out after a government ruling I was a contractor.

Being a developer doesn't make you an employee.


If you work for contracts / jobs and not for a company that has hired you full time then yeah you are probably a contractor depending on where you are occupation does not magically determine employment status (contractor vs employee).


It did for me. I was hired locally and worked for a short time on location but then worked from home. When tax time came I asked for my t4 but employer said I wasn't an employee so I asked for a ruling and it was deemed I was a contractor. That ending up costing me thousands.. I quickly found something else..


Not sure where you live, but every job I have had that's a full employment job has had me fill out a W2 tax form as one of the first papers I sign. If I'm not asked to sign one, I'm going to get suspicious about my employment status immediately.


I've worked a few software developer jobs- particularly at very early startups- that were probably illegal. Either as an employee treated way too much like a contractor, or a contractor treated way too much like an employee.


Those are just some conditions of work,typically contractors would have similar conditions.

The point of qualifying them as employees is offering the (little) protection the state grants those, acting as a negotiating agent in a relation that is typically disproportionately favorable the larger party, i.e. the company.

Most drivers I've met don't do that for fun but because they have to. They are usually not part of the upper or middle classes but or the more vulnerable. And as such, getting some status that prevents companies known for their bad hr practices to do whatever they want is the human thing to do.


ride share drivers are pretty clearly not employees in the same way that I am an employee at my current 9-5 or how I was when I worked in a restaurant. these jobs also differ importantly from typical contractor gigs. instead of fighting over whether to classify them as Employees or Contractors, why not push for a new set of rules that actually suit the situation? is it just not as viable politically?


Protecting people is good and indeed is one of the duties of the government. But why the government is trying to push this duty onto the business?

California is one of the richest state. How about you introduce affordable healthcare for all citizens if the state? I'm sure it will bring the working class more good than all uber laws combined.


There is no such thing as a citizen of California. Every citizen of the US (except the ones out on bail, incarcerated or on probation) has the right to move to California at any time, which is the big flaw in your idea: if California were to start to subsidize healthcare for every California resident, hundreds of thousands of sick US citizens who currently cannot pay their medical bills would move to California, putting a politically unsustainable burden on California's taxpayers.

Subsidizing health care in the US has to be done at the Federal level. The Federal level can require the states to contribute, and I think that is what the Federal Affordable Care Act does, but that is politically palatable only because all 50 states must contribute.


Well, I'm sure Californians, who value democratic principles highly, will gladly accept migrants, who in turn will help to build the state even stronger.

Also you have somehow assumed that a person with health problems is a net burden for the state. When all the progressive humankind have recognized that disabled people can and do contribute a lot to the society, you are dismissing their contribution calling them "a burden".


I don’t know anything about laws and courts and shit but I heard that Cali now requires the ABC test for independent contractors and work freedom does not appear to be a sufficient condition for being a contractor under that test.

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/ninth-circuit-concludes...


Sure, but perhaps this definition is flawed. You can literally be on call for your competitor simultaneously. Let's say a driver is paid hourly by lyft and uber. It's kind of absurd that they should be paid for that time by both companies.

At the very least, if they are reclassified, california should allow the lyft drivers to choose to be contractors. Then lyft and uber could prohibit employee drivers from working for the competitor.

Having driven rideshare for an year and a half I think the reclassification is not really going to work in the driver's favor.


> At the very least, if they are reclassified, california should allow the lyft drivers to choose to be contractors. Then lyft and uber could prohibit employee drivers from working for the competitor.

This makes perfect sense.

And let's forget competition for a moment. Let's say I'm working for a company I shall call BeeperShift, or "BS." If I am working for BS today, and while I am working for BS I write some code for my side-hustle.

Does BS still owe me minimum wage? I think that unless their terms of employment prohibit working on anything except the company's business, they owe me minimum wage.

But if they neglect to prohibit me from working on anything else, and if they neglect as employers to set up appropriate supervision and direction of my activities, I think they owe me minimum wage.

It's not my fault if they don't give me other work to do. I could only give them an out f they give me work to do and I don't do it, i.e. I don't respond when they beep me.

In which case, their recourse is to fire me with cause.


Perhaps this definition is what the world needs.

The whole gig economy thing is bad for the working class. People need real jobs, not sitting in their car waiting for an app to tell them to do some slave labor for a rich person.


Since this is about new legislation, the important point is (imo) what the laws & definitions should be, not what they are.

In any case, IDK if these reasons do or should preclude uber drivers' definition as employees. Flexible hours and/or having your own equipment isn't the norm, but it does exist within employment. So does piecemeal work.

Regardless, I think the situation merits new regulation. One reason is competitive fairness. Smartphone ubiquity enabled these companies to form business models that keep them just outside of the "taxi" & "employer" definitions. This isn't fair to taxis and employers and it may force others into also becoming non-employers, to avoid the burden of labour laws.

Less trivially, these platform tech companies are, in my opinion, monopolies. In fact, their operating rationale from day 1 is to eventually monopolise a large market. Uber raised so much money from investors, despite reliably losing money specifically because successful platforms are expected to become monopolies. Even if you define drivers as independent business people, they should be protected from monopsonist pricing (including terms) power. So should consumers and (very importantly in a monopoly situation) potential rivals.

Here also the existing definition of monopoly is not as important as what the definition should be. Current anti-trust laws were designed for the 20th century commodity and infrastructure monopolies which emerged at that time. New laws need to target the types of monopolies that readily emerge now.. that means platforms. Google's adwords platform & amazon's ecommerce platform, for example, are monopolies. They control enourmous market share. They give their own participant businesses an overwhelming advantage. They're both markets where network effects make market share an overwhelming advantage, locking them into place.

Monopolies are inefficient. The logic of antitrust is economic, not just moral.

I realize this is mostly a discussion about labour rights. These are ultimately important too. I do think the gig economy has advantages. It can't stay a loophole for sidestepping labour laws... but OTOH, I think diversity of employment types is important. Besides flexibility, these are low gatekeeper "jobs" and that has value. Regulation always carries a danger of uniformity. All that said, we can't just move on with the status quo, where Uber drivers have fewer legal rights because they use surge pricing instead of weekly shifts.


1. An Uber or Lyft driver can show up to work "whenever they want" because the company doesn't need them at more specific hours. If they had a shortage of drivers at certain hours, they would certainly require drivers be available at least to some extent at those hours.

Also, many high-tech companies have some of the software developers "show up to work whenever they want" etc. Doesn't make them non-employees - it's just that those companies don't need inflexible hours from them.

2. Drivers can't "take breaks whenever they want" - only between rides and while not committed to an upcoming ride.


1). Not true. What’s surge pricing then? During NYE and Halloween, absolute peak demand time, drivers are not required to work - they’re instead made aware of higher earnings during those times and can decide for themselves.

2). How is this different from any other contractor? Are you saying a true contractor can stop working right in the middle of a job? Imagine if you hired a plumber and they took apart your toilet and then just left in the middle of the job. The nature of the work determines when someone can start/stop working for any reasonable contractor.


> 1. An Uber or Lyft driver can show up to work "whenever they want" because the company doesn't need them at more specific hours. If they had a shortage of drivers at certain hours, they would certainly require drivers be available at least to some extent at those hours.

I doubt they would need to require anything as surge pricing would increase the incentives to drive until some equilibrium was reached, presumably.


> show up to work whenever they want

except this doesnt cover the flexibility to work 5 hours per week; most high tech companies require full time employment.


No contractor is 100% independent. If I hire a plumber, they fix the pipes that I tell them to fix. They don't just do whatever they feel like doing.

If you're 100% independent you're not a contractor, you're retired.


This is not a good analogy.

The plumber is free to set their own rates, an uber driver cannot.

No one can unilaterally fire the plumber from 50% of the plumbing market. Uber or Lyft can ban a driver at any time for any reason.

You probably didn’t order up your plumber through PlumbersRUs. If you did, they would almost certainly be an employee of that entity.


> The plumber is free to set their own rates, an uber driver cannot.

Actually, they can. They can refuse any trip if it doesn't pay enough. The difference is that the existence of Uber and Lyft makes the market more efficient and transparent to the customer than the plumber market.

> No one can unilaterally fire the plumber from 50% of the plumbing market.

The fact that the driving market is consolidated doesn't change the underlying economic dynamic. A lawyer can be "fired" from 100% of the lawyering market by the ABA. But if I hire a lawyer that still doesn't make her an employee.

> You probably didn’t order up your plumber through PlumbersRUs.

Not yet. But even before Lyft and Uber, many (perhaps most) taxi drivers were independent contractors, not employees.


If you hire a lawyer they could be your employee. If you hire a firm they are not.

The difference is the firm can assign a junior to do all of the work and keep the senior for trial or face-to-face meetings. If you hired a person they can't really do that.

Can I change the driver? If my wife uses my account is that allowed? Can I subcontract to my team? If not I'm an employee.


>Can I change the driver? If my wife uses my account is that allowed? Can I subcontract to my team? If not I'm an employee.

That’s not how that works. There is a reason they are called contractors. All kinds of stipulations about who will do the work can be loaded into a contract.


> They can refuse any trip if it doesn't pay enough.

And refuse a few trips and you will be unable to get any trips at all.


Yes, that's how a free market works. If you aren't willing to sell at the clearing rate, you don't get any business. That has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not someone is an employee.


At first I was on your side. The more I think about it I'm not sure.

Not setting your own rates pushes them towards employees.

The freedom to work for any platform at anytime pushes them to contractors.

But I think we are missing the bigger point. Regardless of their status they deserve protection. All contractors should have additional protection.


Tow truck drivers are not employees of AAA.


Says someone that probably is a dot-com employee, where there's a foosball table, people come in at 10 am or later, meetings are considered a waste of time, is "results-oriented"...

.... and gets paid 10x more.


Conjecture about identity of complete stranger: check.

Ad hominem attack based on conjecture: check.

Non-sequitur: check.

This comment shows all the symptoms. I regret to inform you that it is officially retarded.


They have process to discourage each of those so called key elements. To earn a living wage, drivers need to earn bonuses by driving at specific times, for at least a target number of rides per session.

They’re not taking coding contracts ...


Let me quess - you never driver for Lyft or Uber have you now?

Your full time w2 job comes woth exact the sane flexibility - you are allow to show anytime you want to, take breaks as long as you want to and do whatever task you want to. Slavery is over. But just so you know - if you don’t play by the rules you will get fired probably on day one. Similar with share ride apps you are being scored and valuated on every single fart you pass, including amount of signouts, miles you drive, score you get for riders etc. same story you are not forced to do some quota but if you don’t score high enough on their weekly “goodbye to all that didnt fit top 60%” you are not part of family anymore.


> Your full time w2 job comes woth exact the sane flexibility - you are allow to show anytime you want to, take breaks as long as you want to and do whatever task you want to.

What full time job do you have that allows you to show up whenever you want, work as little hours as you want, and do whatever you want? Sign me up.


Plenty of jobs are like this these days. A few of my peeps do work W2 full time, but most time they spent at home; they show up at the office only for official meetings, and other than overall goals they manage their own work, including taking as many PTO as they want to (unlimited, but they are benchmarked based on their work results, not amount of hours they clocked in so you probably going to take full time vacation only once they will be fired).

The only thing from your list that we could argue about is "do whatever task you want to", but that doesn't apply to drivers neither - their task is very strict in fact - they supposed to take riders from A to B, period. No form of deviation is allowed. So actually this alone locked them into a full/part time employee, because they do not have a freedom to do any job they want to, similar to how as a contractor you can chose what you do next.


There's constant arguments about this, whether a driver for Lyft / Uber, or a delivery driver of Grubhub, Doordash, UberEats, is either an employee or contractor. And yet, I haven't seen talk of the creation of a new type of worker, one for the gig economy.

I get that there's a big difficulty in creating these laws, with politicians who don't know exactly what the solution is, but someone needs to start by saying look, these gig economy workers are neither "employees" or "contractors" with the current law definitions, so we're going to create a new definition of worker geared towards these cases which makes sure employees aren't being taken advantage of, but also makes it possible for these companies to continue.


>also makes it possible for these companies to continue.

Taxi companies have been following worker laws for forever, it's not impossible at all. These companies are just spreading FUD, like big ISPs did back when net neutrality was imposed: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20151001/12131332412/hey-r...


Taxi companies have been treating their drivers as contractors in the state of California for forever. It seems like some of them have been having legal trouble lately because of it too: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/...


That would require legislators who are independent of the interests on both sides of the problem - something we rarely see here.


That is the general condition. It is possible that e.g. FLSA was passed due to the political calculations of the capitalist class, but it did happen.

Incidentally, the "Gig Economy" has all the necessary features to serve as the Corporate Neoliberal version of pseudo-Communist China's Social Credit System. Possibly that may serve as motivation to address GP's excellent point regarding a new class of workers and the necessity to craft new laws.

[FLSA]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Labor_Standards_Act_of_19...


Well that’s probably not possible because each gig market is different.

Healthcare is the biggest item but seems unlikely to budge. Payments for, say, a driver vs. a dog walker are going to vary significantly due to different scheduling expectations, different time values, etc.

It’s not clear what is meant by making it possible for these companies to continue either, as most of these companies are not currently running a profitable business.


>>"[..] makes sure employees aren't being taken advantage of, but also makes it possible for these companies to continue. "

Sounds good to me. Only that, maybe, the most important innovation of those companies, is that they found a way around the existing laws.

If that is the case, both, protecting the employees and making possible for these companies to exist are contradictory goals.


If you sign the petition be wary of this:

I agree that Uber or its representatives may contact me by email, phone, or SMS at the email address or number I provide, including for marketing purposes.


The official rules[1] are somewhat ambiguous, so this might be an interesting Court battle. The key bit is probably "A worker is an employee when the business has the right to direct and control the work performed by the worker, even if that right is not exercised."

[1] https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/understanding-employee-vs-contr...


This criterion is ridiculously out of touch with reality. I just hired some people to trim my trees. I told them exactly which trees to trim, in some cases, which specific limbs to cut off. That doesn't make the tree-trimmers my employees.


It’s more like they agreed to take the job of cutting these trees in a way that you would like for an agreed upon amount of money and then left. They don’t work for you, they did some work for you, but they didn’t have to, and they wouldn’t have gotten paid or been entitled to any compensation if they hadn’t. They would have been liable if they had killed your trees in the process.

I think where we’re splitting hairs is whether the drivers have a direct relationship with Uber and Lyft that entitles them to the rights of a W-2 employee, or whether they are actually working for the passengers and are therefore 1099 workers merely using Uber and Lyft as a platform to find work.

You see, there’s a decent case for the latter, it’s what they predicated their original business model on, but given the amount of control that Uber and Lyft does exercise on the drivers, I think that pushes them into W-2 territory. Drivers can’t even set their own rates for which they will take a job for example, Lyft and Uber hands the fee scheduling down from on high. The choice is binary, work for Uber or Lyft, or don’t work for Uber or Lyft.

There was an interesting but failed startup called Sidecar I think it was. Never got to use it, but the description I received was you put in your pickup and drop off points and the amount you would like to pay, and then it broadcasts this fare out to potential drivers that happen to be available. They see it, and decide if they want to take the fare or not. If Sidecar were still around, I think they would have a much easier time proving their case that their employees are 1099 contractors, not W-2 employees.

EDIT: Some additional thoughts I had after posting this.

As a customer paying for a ride, are you paying to call a Lyft or an Uber? Or are you paying to call a driver. Lyft gives me no options to call upon specific drivers that might be available, or to eliminate certain makes of car that I dislike (damn Prius C drivers), and penalizes me if I cancel. When I’m calling a car, it certainly feels like my relationship is with Lyft the company, not the guy who eventually picks me up. I have no idea who that will be.


Regarding your last paragraph: when I call AAA for a tow, I have no control over which tow driver or tow company shows up. That doesn't make the tow truck driver an employee of AAA.


You sir, have brought up a decent point. Not an example I’m overly familiar with, but I’ve seen it in action.

EDIT: took a moment to look into AAA, they advertise themselves as a federation of regional clubs and their customers are less customers and more members. This may not be an Apples to Apples comparison, but lacking sufficient information and experience, I defer to people with more knowledge in this case.


> Regarding your last paragraph: when I call AAA for a tow, I have no control over which tow driver or tow company shows up. That doesn't make the tow truck driver an employee of AAA.

By the same token, neither does that establish a direct contractual relationship between the tow truck driver and the owner who called AAA. Neither third party may negotiate the conditions of the service provided.


Drivers can set their rates. They just don’t sell their services when the market is currently saturated. It’s exactly the same thing a contractor does in a crowded market.


The difference is that you are not "hiring" the tree trimmer 5 days a week, 52 weeks of the year. They have many "employers", and so are independent of all of them. An Uber/Lyft driver does not have many "employers", they only have 1/2, plus maybe their own other job.


> The difference is that you are not "hiring" the tree trimmer 5 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.

Sure. But that's not what the text says.

And BTW, the amount of time that an Uber/Lyft driver works is entirely up to them. They can work one day, take a month off, and then come back and work another day. Any Uber/Lyft driver who works 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, is doing so because they choose to, not because they fear being fired if they don't.


Perhaps it's that you didn't specify the exact tools, methods, and timeframe. That's probably where Uber and Lyft are at risk.

I agree that the rules don't consider the current reality of tools and global connectivity.


Perhaps the difference is you told the group of workers “I want trees A and B trimmed in this way”, but you probably weren’t saying “Tom, I want you to trim tree A, Dick, I want you to trim tree B, and Harry, I want you on the ground passing tools up to Tom and Dick as needed.”

Your example sounds exactly like a statement of work in a contract. My example reaches past that into the company to manage their use of labor.

This doesn’t necessarily apply directly to Uber because they may argue that they are contracting a single ride, and the driver/contractor is fulfilling that small contract in any way they see fit.


> This criterion is ridiculously out of touch with reality. I just hired some people to trim my trees. I told them exactly which trees to trim, in some cases, which specific limbs to cut off. That doesn't make the tree-trimmers my employees.

But this legal notion has multiple criteria, all of which need satisfaction to arrive at a conclusion. Cherry picking a single criterion in this instance makes no sense unless you apply all to your metaphor.


I mean, if you hired them to trim specific trees for other people... every day... for years...


Having authority over the details of the specific job they are doing for you does not mean you are directing the rest of their business, nor the details of their other projects for other clients, so this is not an accurate comparison.


That’s the federal definition. The State of California is codifying it’s own rules to remove the ambiguity.


Is there some link to what the criteria is?


I think the part about financial incentives to work longer shifts is a low hanging fruit. This should not be allowed. It basically forces an employee like relationship for an individual to make a practical living (if even). If this were not allowed, uber would be forced to pay higher wages across the board.


That's my one complaint. Penalizing drivers for rejecting rides. If you could truly be living your life and set multiple rideshare apps to notify you only when ride fares exceed X rate, then everyone would just set their minimum rate on all the apps and just take the most profitable fares that came their way.


If they get classified as employees, does that mean the companies will have more control over how they do their job? I've caught multiple drivers bypassing toll roads (causing a much longer trip) even though Uber includes the toll fee in what they charge me.


Uber doesn't really care about your safety, the quality of the ride, or your drivers behavior unless any of these things cause significant PR disasters and result in a very large number of users leaving the platform.

This wouldn't change if the drivers were classified as employees.

Also, do you have any proof drivers are actually able to pocket those missed tolls?

Seems like a win/win, drivers get higher fare due to time, and Uber pockets toll. Why should Uber care?


The driver would have to be the one paying the toll, so any money collected for a toll road by Uber would have to go to the driver, otherwise it’s just an arbitrary fee Uber decided to collect, not really a charge for the toll.


They do. You in the passenger seat have some control, you can make their lives pretty difficult on the trip, you can demand that they take the toll road since you’re paying for it anyway.

Appeal to Uber for a credit on those trips. I don’t know the process for Uber, but on Lyft I had someone bypass me entirely, drive just far enough away to give “me” a ride and collect partial credit, then “drop me off”.

Lyft credited me, changed my rating on the driver (I fat fingered the rating on my way to call another car, I only call Lyfts when I’m in a hurry, not when I have all the time in the world), and gave me a guarantee that I would never see that driver again. I hope they also took notes on the scam that driver was running, but I stopped caring once I got my money back.

If Uber gives a damn about customer retention, which they should, they predicated their entire business model on being the biggest, only game in town, you should expect a similar result.


Uber and Lyft are both in the "extractive" business.

Uber and Lyft are a scam to drain both investors and drivers of money which is skimmed off and goes into the pockets of the CEOs, and other business managers.

There is no true profit generated by either the company itself or by the drivers. All business is being permitted by using the investors' money to undercut taxi companies' prices by subsidising customers.

Once the investors finally wise up, both Uber and Lyft will disappear like they never existed.


>To classify someone as an independent contractor, the court said, businesses must show that the worker is free from the control and direction of the employer; performs work that is outside the hirer’s core business; and customarily engages in “an independently established trade, occupation or business.”

This is a bit unrelated, but how would this affect software contractors?


It will impact fewer software contractors than we'd think: many contractors really aren't. You're a W2 employee of the placing agency, and they are sending you, their employee, to their client.


Interesting analogy. At least in the Netherlands, unless you have 3 or 4 contracts in a year, you are not really considered a contractor anyway, you are considered an employee. If you stay contracting more than 50% at a company for more than 2 years, you are not a consultant, you are just an expensive employee.

I know that in Australia 20 years ago, there was a big push to make everyone contractors, to get rid of employee obligations, the rules were changed to be similar to NL now, but I don't know what has happened in the meantime.


While it’s true that it’s bad for Uber it drivers are classified as employees, it’s also going to be bad for drivers. Why so much energy directed at punitive measures?

Employee classification only benefits tax authorities who get to collect more money. Why we penalize hiring employees I have no idea but that’s how it works.


> it’s also going to be bad for drivers

how does this follow? Regular employees are entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay and reimbursements for work expenses. The latter in particular would finally put an end to Uber's business model of outsourcing maintenance and risk to drivers, costs which many drivers are very likely not fully aware of.

Being treated as a regular employee, possible unionizing and being entitled to full benefits is a huge boon for working people.


Reclassification doesn’t create new money.

Things that would actually help drivers:

- Limit Uber's share of the fare to 10%. Or 5%. And the driver gets the rest

- Let drivers set strict limits on where they are willing to pick up/drop off, etc

- Let drivers set their price/terms

Give drivers more control, not less. Making them employees gives them less control


a ridesharing service without drivers doesn't exist. Of course reclassification doesn't create new money, if the companies want to be able to operate they'll need to find it somewhere else. Maybe we could start with not making developers millionaires in their 20s and hiring 1k+ sales people for a company that makes a smartphone app.

Literal price fixing might seem simple but seems like a bad market intervention in comparison to giving workers reasonable negotiating power and representation.


Is this what's really bothering you? Personally I'd prioritize helping drivers over punishing tech bros. Limiting the app's share isn't a price control, and the most direct way to prevent all the value accruing to a handful of people.

> Maybe we could start with not making developers millionaires in their 20s and hiring 1k+ sales people for a company that makes a smartphone app.


This would be a powerful promoter of autonomous vehicle technologies in ridehail companies. Interesting that if passed, Assembly Bill 5 would become law at about the time the Tesla Network might be implemented. Might actually have a very positive effect on Uber, Lyft et al, just not on their drivers.


They aren't contractors, and they are not employees.

That's why its called "gig economy".


Uber and Lyft are gaming labor laws in order to get a cheap flexible workforce. To the extent that their business depends on doing so, then, yes, they don't have a right to exist.

I wish drivers could organize and set up ride-hailing collectives, so that we would just cut out Uber and Lyft as the middle-men; prices might be higher because of wages, but it won't all feel like an anti-social scam - and drivers will be able to participate in managing their own lives and put in their professional input (together with consumer groups / regulators) into standard of conduct, service and safety.


everyone should be a contractor anyway. Health care should be decoupled from employer.


In theory, I'm ok with this, but we also need a stronger social safety net. There's still a certain amount of social responsibility that comes with employing someone full-time, even though it's not required by law. As long as the government can step in to fill the gap, this can work.

What's tricky is that while there are benefits to business because now their business is business, not retaining workers longer than they should, it makes them cold and heartless. But we're humans, we don't respond will to that, and we want to be treated with dignity, even in business transactions.


Maybe CA doing stuff like sending itself back into the dark ages of taxis will prompt tech to take up root in other states more. I can only hope.


the problem is that in order for you to have your convenient uber/lyft car, people are forced into poverty and homelessness as these jobs do not pay enough.

background on homeless Uber drivers: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/17/uber-drivers...


If these labor laws prevent that, then these people allegedly being forced into poverty and homelessness by uber/lyft would just get traditional minimum wage jobs instead which are plentiful at the moment. CA is at its lowest unemployment rate right now. Yet people are still taking these jobs over more traditional ones. So apparently the problem exists in both cases and a more general solution is in order than trying to get rid of contracting-like jobs which other comments point out uber/lyft certainly are (work for competitors simultaneously, no set hours, etc).


> would just get traditional minimum wage jobs instead which are plentiful at the moment.

in which case they would not be Uber/lyft drivers and you would not have the convenience of these services available to you, back into the "dark ages of taxis" .

> Yet people are still taking these jobs over more traditional ones.

yes, and they are living below the poverty level by doing so. The fact remains that your experience of convenient uber/lyft rides depends upon people who willingly or not place themselves into poverty-level wages. For the moment, your convenience requires that people suffer in poverty.

OTOH, if regulations were imposed such that Uber/Lyft had to raise their prices, then you can have the convenience of these services, at a higher cost (more likely though, it would be simply be a regular low-margin business like taxis and supermarkets and no longer profitable to investors), and it would not require poverty-level workers in order to achieve it. This is the purpose of the minimum wage - so that the job market isn't crowded with jobs that do not provide a living wage.


My point is gig jobs must not be the real problem here, so the solution to the general problem isn't tanking the gig economy. If uber and lyft were so bad then people would be taking those regulated jobs that are available instead.

I wouldn't mind if uber/lyft prices went up some to pay the employees better but I don't see it as a moral evil to make side jobs available where you're not paid for time doing nothing because there's not a job yet. Re: healthcare it should just be single payer and not tied to employment.


So close and yet so far. No business or corporation has an inherent right to exist, and if you can only turn a profit by shafting the people who work for you then you have no business in business.


If someone performs a voluntary job without a gun to their heads, the assumption is that they are not being shafted.

Or they are being shafted by life so hard that this represents less shafting that all their other options. Otherwise, if they had better options, why would they take the job?


There's no such thing as a voluntary job when the "alternative" is poverty, homelessness, and slow death by starvation or preventable disease.


So your proposal is to drive these corporations out of existence and push the people back into poverty?


Not all of them. Just the ones that shaft workers. If your business has nothing to hide it has nothing to fear.


I think this bill passing would be a good thing, because gig workers need legal protections, and in America most people are also dependent on their employer to help cover the cost of health insurance (another issue itself; healthcare should be free). I know people who are regular uber drivers in LA, and they certainly treat driving for uber like a "real" job. They try to work regular hours; they need to to be able to make rent.

I believe the real issue is the distinct lack of investment in public transit infrastructure in the US. Uber and Lyft claim they're providing a valuable service. In developed nations cities build subways and bus routes to meet the needs of residents. America's philosophy seems to be to never provide a necessary service for free when somebody could be making a buck off it.


I tend to bring this up on Uber/Lyft/etc threads, but it seems especially relevant here:

"The Market Fairy Will Not Solve the Problems of Uber and Lyft" (2016)

https://www.ianwelsh.net/the-market-fairy-will-not-solve-the...

> Here is the thing about Uber and Lyft (and much of the “sharing economy”).

> They don’t pay the cost of their capital.

> The wages they pay to their drivers are less than the depreciation of the cars and the expense of keeping the drivers fed, housed, and healthy. They pay less than minimum wage in most markets, and, in most markets, that is not enough to pay the costs of a car plus a human.

> These business models are ways of draining capital from the economy and putting them into the hands of a few investors and executives. ...

From the drivers' POV these companies are parasites.




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