Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Uber and Lyft shutdown in California averted as judge grants emergency stay (theverge.com)
424 points by badwolf on Aug 20, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 649 comments



Completely anecdotal but I bring this question up every time I drive in an Uber and overwhelmingly the drivers tell me they want to stay independent. No one is forcing drivers into their jobs. I really struggle to understand why we need bureaucrats imposing their idea of what a market should look like on an fairly efficient market.

From my experience the drivers are perfectly aware of the costs that go into driving so I really don't buy the exploitation argument. Seems like a loss for everyone except bureaucrats. Also don't see how it's realistic to expect them to be able to adjust to this on a dime. Although large, California is still a minority of their revenue.


They want to stay independent, fine. Then actually treat them like independent contractors. Let them set rates. Let them decline rides without facing penalties by the platform. Make the changes necessary to fit the independent contractor model. And not just the rideshare company, but the state too: these workers need unemployment insurance, as Covid has shown, and somebody needs to pay for it: be it the workers or the ridesharing businesses.


I worked for SuperShuttle developing their driver mobile app.

I can tell you for a fact that a big reason SuperShuttle failed is because the drivers were independent. They would consistently reject low cost trips and wait it out until they got one "mega" trip so that they only need to actually work for about 3 hours/day. Some days they wouldn't take any trips, just hang out in the van playing Flappy Bird.

This was a main issue for the SuperShuttle because they couldn't get their drivers to do adapt when Uber came around, including accepting work that more resembled Uber pool workloads.


This is what we call "revealed preference". It doesn't really matter what ten thousand Uber drivers have told you (and some of the supposed first-hand field surveying claimed in this discussion stretches belief). The only thing that matters in the end is how the participants in the market actually behave.


I think what's happening here is the defined categories don't adequately model reality. An Uber driver is somewhere between the current legal categories of employee and independent contractor.

A fully independent contractor like a SuperShuttle driver can treat each fare as a separate contract, pick only the best offers, and generally not provide the company an adequate service level to ensure a reliable stream of customers. Each driver prioritizing their short-term interests keeps that model from being a viable profession in many cases.

On the other hand, an employer is required to provide certain benefits to employees, especially if they exceed certain thresholds of hours worked. To make the fixed cost of some of those benefits viable, the employer will usually want to require the employee to work specific hours, and often limits those hours to stay within legal thresholds.

It's the flexibility of scheduling I that I think attracts people to gig work. They'll take the ability to cherry-pick the most profitable gigs if given the chance, but it isn't a core requirement.

It's probably desirable to add a third category to provide gig workers some protections without shoehorning them into the employee classification, which many of them actively wish to avoid.


Very well said. Gig workers are in that nebulous, legally undefined category between employees and contractors.


Actions > Words.

Such a simple concept yet many ignore it. Nowadays it's trendy to call such concepts "mental models".


True! I use this concept a lot when arguing with people about minimum wage! I think those single Mom's should be happy to have a job, not complaining they can't pay rent! Like they can just learn to code if they don't want to make min wage


I can't tell if this is a joke or someone incredibly out of touch with the reality of poverty (this being HN, there are enough people who fall in the latter group to make it unclear)


It's a joke, I'm glad taking "Actions > Words" to it's logical conclusion seemed like someone's real opinion, really tells you about the type of people that frequent this site


This seems more nuanced than implied here. It sounds as though the 'main issue' wasn't that Super Shuttle couldn't work while letting their drivers be independent, but rather that they couldn't compete on price with a service that didn't.

If a business was paying their workers minimum wage and couldn't compete on price with another business that came in and didn't respect minimum wage laws, you wouldn't say the main issue was paying minimum wage. You would say it was the business that didn't respect minimum wage laws.

It seems like if all companies treat drivers as independent contractors, then the market will naturally work itself out. Drivers will compete amongst themselves and determine what they are willing to work for, and prices will adapt as needed to support that. However, if some companies don't, then obviously it isn't a level playing field. That will only be exacerbated if the company that doesn't then also further depresses ride prices to the point of operating at a loss.

Whether the current legislation actually achieves the goal remains to be seen, but the whole point is to level the playing field. I don't think anyone actually thinks that the way forward is to treat drivers as employees. Instead, I think having to treat drivers as employees is a deterrent to the current way contractor laws are being skirted, with the intent of pushing all companies to treat their drivers as independent contractors in order to level the playing field.


No. It isn’t more nuanced than that. SuperShuttle couldn’t make changes because the drivers irrationally refused to work more for the same pay, even though they knew the company was failing. It really is that simple.


>> because the drivers irrationally refused to work more for the same pay

How is this irrational? You offer me $X for Y hours of work. If X/Y gets too small I say "no" and do something with higher utility, even if that's playing flappy bird. I don't really care that my actions destroy the source of this opportunity because I've already rejected it.

You are right that this is simple, just not in the way you're interpreting it.


Because if you don't take trips then you don't make any money. They felt entitled and refused to adapt when the market demanded it. That's irrational.


In discussions like these I like to start from a basic premise: people aren't stupid.

It's obvious to the drivers that if they don't take trips, then they don't make money. Clearly then, they've decided that below a certain dollar amount, it make more sense to them to play computer games than take a fare. How they arrived at that conclusion, I don't know. But I have faith that it made sense to them.

I do very small software projects for people I find online. I have a minimum fee. If I take on projects below that minimum, I'd have more work, but I have determined that it's in my best interest to hold out for that minimum rate. If this means that I don't make money on that side gig a particular day or week, so be it. I have my reasons for doing that and they won't necessarily make sense to anyone looking in from the outside.


It's trivial to find out why looking at driver's posts online:

There's a minimum time cost to them for each ride or delivery. There's the time you spend finding out exactly where the person is, there can be a delay between jobs, there's delays when picking up an order.

Someone who drives 10 miles for one job will spend much less time than someone who drives 1 mile for 10 jobs. And since they have X units of time to spend in the app, they'll start making less and less per mile driven.

They also don't get paid for the time spent going to a pickup unless it exceeds a certain length: https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/24/16533940/uber-long-picku...

It's easy enough to see how, at some point, they start to get paid so little that it's in their best interest to just not drive and spend the gas and their effort

__

Here's a severe case showing someone go through that exact experience:

> I accepted the pick-up and app informed me that the customer was 13 miles away I drove there[...] pressed my App for the drop-off Destination [...] and saw that drop-off was 1 mile away

> Total time of trip, back and forth, 45 to 50 minutes and 29 miles , and I earned $8 dollars

> So, after thinking about it, I have decided to ‘decline’ all trips that are more than 10 miles away from me and do not say that it is gonna be a ‘long trip’

https://ride.guru/lounge/p/uber-drivers-how-far-will-you-dri...


You can be smart and be irrational. You can be dumb and be irrational. So it’s sort of a moot point.


The drivers were not investors in the company; it failing was not a huge problem for them. Having a strong preference for leisure is totally ok. The drivers didn’t have enough stock and weren’t paid enough to motivate them to work the hours the company needed to be viable. The company failed. The investors lost all their money. The founders and employees got nothing. That’s capitalism. If they’d been right they’d have made massive bank and that too would have been capitalism. Workers get to play capitalism too. Everyone played. Everyone made their choices and the company failed.


The drivers are franchisees so they have huge interest in keeping the company going, otherwise they wouldn't get any trips. It was their problem. They just didn't want to change.


They can just drive for another company, they don't suffer any significant loss the same way a McDonald's restaurant would if McD's folded and had to overhaul the entire restaurant. The drivers just install another app on their phone.


This is a problem with Taxi drivers as well. Have had friends too close to the airport miss flights because drivers keep rejecting the fare because it goes to drivers near the airport who want a long trip.


I've had taxi drivers yell at me for how close I lived to the airport. Angrily banging the steering wheel. "I waited in line for 2 hours and I get this fucking fare!?" Then they drive maniacally fast, weaving through traffic hoping to catch the tail end of passengers disembarking my flight. Mildly terrifying. Uber and Lyft were so welcome.


Things I don't miss about cabs:

1. them complaining about short fair or straight up driving off before I could get in because I wasn't going far enough (lesson learned in Vegas: get in before answering questions) 2. The constant, relentless dance about their "credit card machine being broken" "you can pay cash!" "there's an ATM machine inside"

Uber and Lyft were god sends when I was traveling a lot for work. click button, get in car, arrive at place. None of the adversarial nonsense.


In theory, the idea of regulated, but high, fares for taxis came with a legal obligation to accept all rides.

But that never stopped drivers from playing that game anyway.


>Uber and Lyft were god sends when I was traveling a lot for work. click button, get in car, arrive at place. None of the adversarial nonsense

At the expense of the security of the drivers serving you. You get convenience, they get a subsistence lifestyle.


If they don’t want to follow the terms of the taxi license fuck them. Universal service, take every fare, don’t discriminate by race. If Uber and Lyft destroy the entire taxi industry it can’t come soon enough.


I don't want anyone working a job to live a subsistence lifestyle, but taxis have also always been a nightmare for me (in the US and every country I've ever been in) and I never want to go back. Uber and Lyft are vastly superior and less stressful experiences for the customer in every way. I'd like them to be good experiences for the drivers, too, but the answer isn't to scrap the whole thing and go back to taxis.


In some countries, the meter is just for show and every ride is a negotiated fare. Also, sometimes it's hard to distinguish taxi from pirate. Heck, in some places, even the licensed drivers are notorious for robbing tourists. Yikes.


A living wage and convenient cabs don't need to be mutually exclusive. Also, the adversarial nonsense was more than just a lack of convenience. Some drivers are just not nice people and managed to get away with it.


You think they'd have been that angry if they had a decent lifestyle?


Maybe the causality goes the other way, people like that might have difficulty finding other jobs.

Most low-paying jobs aren't known for having lots of angry/rude people working them. Probably because in most jobs you have to work with other people or interact with customers within view of your co-workers/manager.


But that's partly because, in all likelihood, the taxi driver also couldn't set their own rates. If that taxi driver could have asked $20 instead of the $3.75 legally mandated by the meter, would you have paid it?

It seems like allowing a proper market, where both riders and drivers could bid on rides, would solve both this problem and the SuperShuttle problem.


Taxis work like this in Panama. Prices vary wildly ( but are low by developed world standards) and trying to get across town in times of high traffic is nearly impossible, nobody will take you ( they ask you where you're going, snort and drive away) until you offer at least four times the standard fare.

They're also unsafe, my brother was robbed at gunpoint by a fake taxi. I've heard multiple women who had to jump from a moving taxi to escape a potential rape.

Uber is more expensive in Panama, but I use it nearly exclusively.


It doesn't, because at 3am in a sparsely populated bit of town, there aren't enough participants for a market to work.

For me to have real choice as a rider, I need at least a few different offers from drivers on the table, at which point I can pick the cheapest/fastest/highest rated/whatever.

Likewise, for the driver to have a true choice, he has to have multiple ride offers in front of him to pick the best.

The reality is that in most local markets, most drivers spend the majority of their time sitting around because there are no riders (and therefore would never turn down any work), and riders are frequently so far from drivers that there is only one driver to choose from within 10 minutes waiting time, so they would be forced to accept the ride, whatever the price.


It was a $20-something fare. It'd vary between $22 and $26 based on traffic. I'm not sure how much of that was airport fees. For pleasant drivers, I'd bump it to $30 with tip.

Yeah, $20 and about 1 in 3 were visibly angry and not shy about letting me know it.

Context: I took this route almost weekly for a few years.


As a tourist in Shanghai/Beijing last year, this (technically illegal) practice is quite common if you don't have the right apps set up. We did frequently pay the higher fare, though the difference in currency was like $1 vs $3 iirc.


> Uber and Lyft were so welcome

Then you are lucky. I can't count the times the drivers called me before picking me up, asking me where I want to go and then cancelling if it was nearby (or no answer at all).

I never cancel, but they do.

And when they don't do that, they are extremly annoyed when it's something close to the airport.


I've used both hundreds of times in the US, and that has never happened to me. They would only call to sync our positions to find each other, which happened very rarely.


This is basically the same thing, except cancelling based on pick-up location instead of destination. The app apparently doesn't always tell the driver exactly where the pickup is- it only gives the direction to drive and the next turn or two. It only gives the exact location once they're close to it.

This is to keep drivers from cancelling based on an out of the way pick-up location.

When they call, it's almost always to get information that the app won't give them.

I've gotten burned by both.


I had the same thing, but the driver dropped his phone off with a friend that was still "within the airport" as we drove out the airpot so that he didn't lose his virtual place. He was pretty upset with me.


Sounds like taxi drivers should be paid by the hour instead of per fare.


Strange. I've heard the same stories about Uber: drivers complaining about short, unprofitable rides, and then there was the study about Uber drivers who take more risks while driving making more money.[1]

I suppose the only thing preventing the adversarial behavior is that the driver needs your five-star review.

[1] in the context of why women Uber drivers make less.


>Uber and Lyft were so welcome.

Because these companies are VC and investor subsidized, and apparently breaking labour laws. It isn't a functioning market. If they had to cover the full costs they would face the same issues as taxis.


I have had this exact experience, Taxi's are the worst and there is 0 feedback loop to improve quality. I once had a taxi driver yell at me and ask me why I didn't just take an uber if I live so close to the airport. Good riddance to traditional taxis (in all but a few cities where they are still marginally more convenient in my experience).


Did doordash for a few weeks and discovered that this is exactly how the dashers in the community that made "okay" money operated. They turn down deliveries that didn't pay a certain amount and would sit in their car doing nothing if they had to.


So lower the price of big trips and raise the price of small trips until thing balance out?


We tried. The drivers revolted when we changed fares because they didn’t want things to change. Remember humans are irrational beings.

Most were longtime drivers and knew historical fare. We just couldn’t get them to change their mindset.


Then the “fix” would be to make the shuttle drivers employees right?


Each van is a separate business franchise. The franchise owner, owned the van and could hire drivers as employees under their franchise.

It was more profitable for everybody with this way.


I remember seeing off a rental travel van a few miles from LAX. They were a tiny business and had no shuttle service. Next door was a EUROPCAR rental and outside it a bunch of taxis and Ubers. They ALL refused to take me, and EUROPCAR security didn't want me catching their shuttle bus because I want a customer. I had to conspicuously beg them to let me on the bus in front of customers in the service area to not miss my flight.


I'm curious what you mean by failed - do you mean in the model and they had to change? California?

I'm seeing Supershuttle availability right now (not in California but in the U.S.)


SuperShuttle was bleeding money from subsidizing fares to compete with ride sharing and shrunk 30% YoY for 3 years straight. The SuperShuttle that you see is now just a brand facade and the original business is on a feeding tube.


Regarding the whole declining rides thing...

Wouldn't most companies keep performance stats for their contractors, and if one started refusing lots of jobs, stop giving them work? Seems like Uber is just automating what is a normal part of working with a contractor.

With regards to unemployment insurance, this is really a hole in our safety net. Regardless of whether Uber drivers should be considered independent contractors, we should have a solution for independent contractors being put out of work.


> Wouldn't most companies keep performance stats for their contractors, and if one started refusing lots of jobs, stop giving them work? Seems like Uber is just automating what is a normal part of working with a contractor.

The easiest way to allow drivers to set rates, and I'm not sure if there is some reason they haven't already done this, is to just let the driver tell the app their rate, so that they wouldn't even be offered rides below it (which naturally might mean they don't get as many), and the service would just give the ride to the driver in the area with the best rate. Obviously that would mean that if you set a lower rate you'd get more rides.

> we should have a solution for independent contractors being put out of work.

It's kind of non-applicable to the situation though, because when you have market pricing like this, you never really get put out of work, it's just that the amount you get paid may vary (and fall below the point where you seek other employment). Does Uber even do layoffs of contractors?


Uber now lets drivers set their own rates, with a multiplier: https://therideshareguy.com/set-your-own-rates-uber-feature/


> we should have a solution for independent contractors being put out of work.

We have one age old solution for this problem. It's called savings.


Hard to do for people living paycheck to paycheck. Then they should refuse the job you say? Yeah right then they don't even have that little paycheck anymore.

There is a power imbalance here, and that's the root issue. The employee and the employer are not on the same level in terms of negotiating power. Hard for tech people like the HN crowd to realize, but in most areas outside overpaid overdemanded software engineering that's reality.

The first industrial revolution showed this pretty dramatically. The solution was workers rights, unions etc. Those things that others here call bureaucrats with a those-people-just-want-to-destroy-the-free-market negative subtone.


It's called a buyer's market. It's normal that there's an oversupply of unskilled labor, so the buyers of that labor have more power.

However, don't forget that it's usually the same for a business and its customers: Ride-hailing itself is a buyer's market. Lyft and Uber are unprofitable. The only way for them to stay "in business" is to constantly burn money.

Supply and demand is not a free market ideal, it's a law of nature. Worker's rights or unions can't raise market prices above demand by fiat, all they can do is limit supply so that prices naturally rise. That means more people are out of a job, but those that are in the job might make a little bit more, if the overhead of running the union doesn't eat up the difference.

You can make the argument that limiting supply is justified, just like forcing people into pension or health care systems may be justified because people are fundamentally irrational. You just have to be able to phrase it that way and acknowledge the trade-off, otherwise you're just fooling yourself.


> Supply and demand is not a free market ideal, it's a law of nature.

In which nature? Not this one...


That makes sense when the fat cats are making huge profits and paying a pittance to their workers. But Uber is losing billions every year. Where is the money going to come from?


Well, I know where it's coming from: a massive number of unemployed drivers, as rates are raised, reducing trips to the few that are profitable enough to pay for that (therefore also excluding lower-income users).

Maybe that's an acceptable trade-off, but we should be clear about it, not pretend we can just pump money from an empty well.


== But Uber is losing billions every year. Where is the money going to come from?==

Maybe it’s not a viable business model.


So people without enough savings to tide them over to the next job (about 70% of the US [0]) should be destitute if they are laid off? And in cases of national disaster, we want vast numbers of destitute people?

Preventing people from becoming destitute is a public good. People not having money to provide for their basic needs leads to increases in crime, which is bad for everyone. It leads to increases in disease, which is bad for everyone. It leads to decreases in economic activity, which is bad for everyone.

Arguing against the basic social safety net is just plain foolish and short sighted.

[0]: https://www.fool.com/retirement/2019/12/18/the-percentage-of...


Solution found not to work.

Cost of living found to render savings unrealistic for many. Single accident, equipment failure, medical emergency or other such unforseeable found to wipe out meagre savings without warning. Precarious nature of employment market and inadequacy of social protections found to eradicate savings at horrific rate upon losing job, such that they become a countdown to destitution rather than a bridge.

Solution rejected; cannot be broadly implemented without other changes to the system. What else you got?


Uber and Lyft already did this in California after the passage of AB5 earlier this year. That's why they now have price estimates instead of giving exact values ahead of time.


Indeed Uber allows drivers to set fares in California. I'm not sure if that's true of Lyft though?

https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Uber-to-Lyft-Yo...


So how that works in practice? One of the major advantages of Uber for me was fixed price upfront. So now I don't know the price until I order the ride? What if the driver sets an excessive price - can I decline the ride?


See https://www.uber.com/blog/california/set-your-fares/

My understanding is that the rider is presented with a range of possible fares before searching (e.g. $9-10). If they are matched with a driver asking for a higher fare than that range they have the option to decline.


So basically they will keep declining until they get the best price. It sounds like the proposed strategy is hogwash.


Who will keep declining? Drivers set their prices up front (they don’t even get requests outside of their price) and riders auto accept if it’s in the range they were shown.


Isn't that just supply and demand finding the market price for something?


I will use Uber and Lyft less because of this. I don’t really want to go through the process of negotiating the rate. This is much more tedious.


Do you live in CA? Because this has already been rolled out for a while. If you don’t, you don’t have to worry about it.


> you don’t have to worry about it.

...yet!


A market economy is indeed a pain.


Sounds like a positive impact of AB5?


We expect eBay/Amazon/Etsy to enforce standards on their platforms, but no one would argue that their sellers are employees.

I'm not convinced that having price and ride quality standards invalidates the contractor relationship.


Quality is debatable but none of eBay, Amazon, or Etsy enforce prices. Fundamentally choosing prices is what defines markets, trying to set them is the actions of an employer.


This is just fundamentally wrong.

As a kid I refereed soccer games. There was a set cost structure for each game depending on age group and whether I was assistant referee or center referee.

There was a system where I could sign up in advance if I wanted the work or not. Uber drivers know exactly what they are getting into and they are free to quit at any time.

I was not an employee of the soccer leagues, I was an independent contractor who was able to work for multiple leagues if I wanted to and who was able to quit at any time.

There is a fundamental role in society for temporary work.

The employer will always set the price in any kind of business relationship. If I hire a contractor to remodel my house for 4 weeks does this mean he is a full time employee of mine and I need to provide him benefits. If he doesn't want the work, he doesn't need to be there.


> I was not an employee of the soccer leagues, I was an independent contractor

Actually you were an employee, just misclassified. If you took them to court you would likely win.

Being able to set your own hours, working part time, working for other employers, quitting at any time - these are all possible in an employee relationship.


Just because they are possible in an employee relationship, setting your own hours is typically not representative of an employee relationship. Doing the same job for multiple customers is typical of an independent contractor relationship. I see no evidence of misclassification where this person was employed by multiple employers. Which of the leagues do you believe was his employer?


Working 2 to 3 part time jobs is extremely common in the US for low level staff and has been for decades. These people say when their available and then get scheduled in.


Of course, but that is not what make them employees, but is actually the part of the criteria for being able to claim independent contractor status. If you work one game for a soccer league, it is highly inefficient to have to create an employment relationship.


My point was having 100 clients is a strong sign that someone is a contractor having 3 is not. It’s also just one of ~20 factors.

Also, length of relationship is judged on how renewable it is not how long it lasted. You can fire anyone on their first day.

It’s really a question of how open ended the work is not how long someone spends doing it. A restaurant always needs people to cook food and a league always needs a referee as an inherent part of it’s business model. On the other hand a company might only need an architect when designing their new office, aka it’s inherently a finite business need. That architect can largely work at a location and time of their choosing, the referee needs to be where and when the games are taking place. Similarly, an Uber driver needs to be picking someone up at a specific location and specific time going somewhere else or waiting 1 hour doesn’t work.


Under current laws you are correct but I think he is trying to highlight the point that maybe the laws shouldn't have this dichotomy and we should recognize there are instances where not being a full employee yet not filling the exact current definition of a contractor should exist


The reason these laws exist is because corporations will use them to reclassify the maximum number of employees possible as contractors, so they can avoid a whole host of legal constraints around employment.

In general, flexibility in classification of workers almost always plays out poorly for the majority of workers.


Yeah, to me a contractor is just someone that does one-offs. All these other things (setting prices, hours, etc) never actually struck me as accurate.

A contractor is someone you hire to perform a particular piece of work. An employee is someone you hire for their skill who is then expected to do many (sometimes varied) pieces of work.


Uber drivers know exactly what they are getting into and they are free to quit at any time.

New Uber drivers don’t know what their pay will be. They can eventually keep a running average to get some idea, but that’s only meaningful as part of an ongoing relationship.

Surge pricing seems like a benefit to the drivers, but as they can’t simply decline endless non surge prices that’s not an individual price negotiation. Essentially, their options are quit the platform or accept the vast majority of whatever is being handed to them.


If you let people set prices some will set absurdly high prices. For good user experience those get filtered out. What gets left is the system that we currently have which is in fact price that is set by drivers—just not explicitly. When there's more drivers in the area, prices drop, when there are few drivers, prices go up. That's how it works and it makes little sense to revise the UI to present nonsensical prices (we'd always pick the lowest price of a certain threshold of driver rating) for the user to choose from in a list just to fit some arbitrary definition of contractor drafted by some dumb politician or lawmaker.


It's not really set by the drivers either, its set by the market. Uber is just a market maker. Prices too high and passengers won't use the service. Prices too low and drivers won't drive. The whole goal of Uber is to find the ideal price to maximize capacity.


I'm not sure but I think amazon enforces some kind of forced price adjustment policy. IIRC they change the prices if their algo detect lower prices somewhere else on the internet or on similar listings. I'll try to find the WSJ article where I've read about this.


Maybe for their own products. Definitely not for others.


You are right,but they've just recently stopped doing that.

https://www.axios.com/amazon-price-practice-antitrust-elizab...


you know uber lets drivers set prices now right?


Globally they can’t, there is a tiny program in some parts of California designed presumably for local regulars, where some drivers can influence rates. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/uber-lets-some-cal...

Of note the way it’s implemented is actively designed not to be used. Effectively Uber lets those drivers multiply their existing calculation by some number but not for example simply set a minimum charge or actually negotiate individual trips. Further, regularly declining trips is not accepted.


Well they can in California and that’s what matters. Because this law is being contested in California.

I get the design. And of course uber wants to encourage lowering prices. However, the point remains: driver set prices, even if the design makes it less obvious. Eventually, if a driver has a number in mind, the driver flips a button to get that number.

As for negotiate individual trips, I don’t understand the point here. You set the prices for dollars per mile / per minute. The trip price is reflective of what the driver set already.


Not even everyone in California, further it’s US and other countries law ride sharing companies are breaking not just California law.

Why negotiation is important is overhead. Dollars per mile / per minute doesn’t cover time to pick someone up. If someone wants to go 1 miles and it’s going to take you X minutes to pick them up that’s much worse than a trip that’s 10 miles long and takes the same X minutes to pick them up. Uber really doesn’t want drivers to be able to decide such trips or people left for hours end up going to other platforms. However, Uber is pushing these losses to their drivers.

Now, if Uber is pushing people to take such unprofitable trips that’s fine if drivers are employees. But, it clearly breaks the model of drivers as independent contractors with each trip being independent.

PS: in term of breaking the law that’s not an automatic prosecution. Enforcement tends to be extremely lax on such issues.


In all of your listed examples people set their own standards, list their own products, and set their own prices. I’m no way is it comparable.


>Let them set rates. Let them decline rides without facing penalties by the platform...

As a contractor I can set my rate, but the company can also simply not hire me. As a contractor I can act as I wish, but the company can terminate my contract. As a contractor, I pay for my unemployment insurance if I want it.

So... What's the practical difference? How is this any different than someone who decides to make a living by selling goods on eBay?


You’re making an error in your analogy.

When I sell you my Smurfs collection on EBay, I set the terms of sale and you bid. You and I come to agreement on the terms of the transaction, within some limits that EBay, as the platform, sets.

When I sell a ride to you on Uber, Uber sets the price, tells me where to pick you up, and even dictates the route I should take. I don’t even get to see where I’m taking you until after I accept the ride.

On EBay, you and I are negotiating with each other. On Uber, the driver has no say in what the offer to the passenger is.


You know your statement is categorically untrue right.

"Uber sets the price"

In California, the driver sets their own price.

"tells me where to pick you up"

Given that this is a taxi service. The driver has to know where to pick up. In fact, how is this different from EBay? Does the seller become an employee because ebay tells the seller where to ship the goods?

"even dictates the route I should take"

No it doesn't. Most drivers use google maps.

"I don’t even get to see where I’m taking you until after I accept the ride"

That's also categorically untrue in California. The driver gets to see the trip before accepting.

Of course, all of these rolled out because of AB5. The question is: can you tell me why the driver is an employee?


If your contract can be terminated at any time without cause, that supports the notion that you're an employee, not a contractor. That's one of the aspects of the Borello test.

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_independentcontractor.htm


> If your contract can be terminated at any time without cause, that supports the notion that you're an employee, not a contractor.

How interesting. That inverts expectations: you need a reason to fire a contractor but no reason to fire an employee.

Ah, I see it:

> Whether the employer has a right to fire at will or whether a termination gives rise to an action for breach of contract; and...

You can't fire a contractor when you haven't written in end-of-contract terms in there. i.e. when you contract with someone and you say "I hire this person from time X to time Y for money Z for delivery of A" you can't just abort sometime in the middle and be like "welp! off you go then".

However, it is perfectly reasonable for you to have exit clauses in your contracts to say that you pay per ride and that either party can exit the contract at any time.

i.e. it determines whether the 'firing' is a breach-of-contract situation

Okay, that makes sense, but it's not a factor in this case. Only a naïve reading makes it work that way but that won't work if you have the exit stipulations.


Point 5, "What is the Borello test?"


Whoops, managed to update just moments before you posted. Sorry!


Won't companies get around this rule by just having these contractors become employees of "staffing agencies". Happens all the time in the software world


> Let them decline rides without facing penalties by the platform

The independent contractor model works both ways. Uber has the right to avoid working with contractors who continually refuse work. You can't be picky about your work but also demand the company keep contracting you like you weren't.

The independent contractor model doesn't map perfectly to gig work but it's much closer than traditional employees.


The point of Uber's alleged model is that Uber is not employing the driver, but rather that it is simply matching up drivers to passengers as a marketplace.

If that's the case, then Uber has no right to avoid working with contractors simply because they continually refuse work. That indicates a non-independent agency arrangement between Uber and the driver (aka "employee") and that's what they're claiming they don't have.


I disagree. Solely from the perspective of the person running the platform, it makes lots of sense to factor in "likelihood of accepting" into your driver selection algorithm.

If I know driver X rejects all rides from a certain area, I'm going to stop showing them rides in that area. That way the user gets their driver faster.


Right, but now they're no longer a marketplace, now the're the one assigning the driver...which makes the driver their agent.

And if the driver is their agent, it matters whether the driver is classified as an employee or independent contractor.

If Uber wants to be a transportation marketplace, they can be, but they actually have to act like one. (And in fact, in CA they've been run a small trial in the Bay Area to make that shift. The trial will supposedly be expanded to all of CA this year.)


> That way the user gets their driver faster.

How is that relevant? If you are an agency, you are advertising availability both ways. If you filter on behavior, you are no longer acting as an independent agency but as an agent for one side.

Disclosing pattern behavior (has rejected 12 rides this hour) is the correct way to provide value-add, not silently making decisions for parties.


If you went to a recruitment agency, would you expect them to send you to interview at every single company regardless of if they think that the company would be interested in hiring you?

Clearly agencies do discriminate who they match with each other. I would say that is the entire point of agencies infact.


> you expect them to send you to interview at every single company regardless of if they think that the company would be interested in hiring you?

I expect to be matched with every available role and an attempt to be made to represent me to them (and they to me). The disclaimer that they are looking for X Y or not Z is part of that. There is a practical issue muddying the metaphor which does not apply to the rideshare matching technology.

> Clearly agencies do discriminate who they match with each other.

That needs to be explicitly outlined in your contract with an agency. An employment agency is legally prohibited from doing that. This is the heart of the legal matter, imo.


Crucial difference: recruitment agency matches based on criteria that customer and contractor provide, because they work for both as an agent.

Agencies don't match based on their own internal criteria. That would recharacterize the relationship between the agency and the contractor, flipping it around so that the contractor becomes their agent.


> How is that relevant?

User experience is incredibly relevant. The entire purpose of the platform is to match drivers and riders. If it can do that more effectively, it has become better as an independent platform.


> The entire purpose of the platform is to match drivers and riders.

That's fine, but we're talking about legal relationships here, not the facilitating product. If you are going to assert you are legally acting in an impartial role, turning around and claiming partiality for one party (the riders) invalidates that position.


I think the one exception there is that you need to distinguish between people who don't take contracts and people who break contracts -- refusing to take a job is one thing, but if a driver frequently accepts a job then cancels it halfway through (eg, they are driving to the pickup and suddenly get offered a better job, on the competing platform), that is a horse of a different color.


> If that's the case, then Uber has no right to avoid working with contractors simply because they continually refuse work.

Why? Uber has a right to do whatever they want for whatever reason or without any reason. Just like the other party in the contract, the driver, can stop accepting any rides and drive for lyft if he so wants. No reason required.


Uber is arguing that drivers are not their contractors, but contractors of the riders. Therefore, Uber denying some wouldn't be the right of Uber unless they were contractors to Uber, in which case they would be misclassified and actually employees as per AB5.


So Uber isn't allowed to delist drivers from their marketplace?


In a vacuum, yes. But when the controls that Uber exercises over their marketplace inch closer and closer to the control exercised by an employer over and employee, it becomes dicey.

More so, not accepting to sell your item (labour) at the first price offered becoming a cause for delisting in a marketplace is very shady and stretches the definition of "marketplace" really hard.


So what if rideshare companies puts you under water if you are not working 40hr week just like an employee? Given the almost duopoly, wouldn't there is no recourse for workers but to accept the same terms as employees.

The essence of contractor model is that your future offers are based on past work, not past declines. If you as a driver were giving quality ride and decided to take 6 months break, there shall be no impact on your rating.


I think they do allow them to set rates now in CA

https://www.uber.com/blog/california/set-your-fares/


> Let them decline rides without facing penalties by the platform.

Does the model of IC have to imply that every ride is a new, independent contract? Is there no other reasonable model in which multiple rides are part of one contract? Why?


What would such a contract look like? How would Uber or Lyft hold up their end of a N-ride contract if they don't end up having enough riders that day?


> What would such a contract look like?

The obvious answer: perhaps more similar to the way it looks like right now? I just don't see why IC implies "let them decline rides without facing penalties by the platform".


I don't think it directly implies that, but I think many of the policies in place chip away at things that should be a part of an IC's experience. Imposing penalties from declining rides means that their power to set rates is reduced.


What does the alternative look like? A contract for 10 rides? A contract for one week at a time? What if the driver wants to serve one ride, and then never again: what contract models allow that single ride to fulfill a "contract"?


The alternative is traditionally called a retainer. You hire the contractor for “various tasks over a set period of time up to N tasks and at least M tasks”

This is the indie version of being salaried. Very common among software engineers, for example.


Contracts can be pretty arbitrary. "Independent contractor -- except can't turn down a ride."


Great, next time I take a consulting gig I'll be sure to turn down the jira tickets I don't want to do.


If you were to have a separate contract for every Jira ticket that would be your call to make. Unusual, but fine.


First, Uber doesn’t have separate contracts for every ride.

If a contractor had a contract to accept or decline every jira ticket (although I don’t see anyone ever forming that contract), if they declines too many tickets they would no longer have the option to pick.


Could this be simply solved by having their star rating influenced by % ride drops? Uber can provide its price estimate as just that - a kelly blue book value so that riders can compare and contrast?

Most customers will search for a range of rating + price - so the market can regulate itself. I mean we accept amazon displaying user ratings - so I don't know why this won't work.


> these workers need unemployment insurance, as Covid has shown, and somebody needs to pay for it: be it the workers or the ridesharing businesses.

The state could also pay for it, through tax revenue. Unemployment insurance seems like a great fit for a government, since any kind of massive correlated unemployment, as we're experiencing now, would absolutely wipe out any private insurer.


And that is the way it works, in functional countries.

And I absolutely agree, divorcing healthcare from employment is the single best thing the US could do to help fix several different issues.

But "We could massively restructure the US economy" is only an answer to "how should rideshare employees be classified" if you want to ensure nothing changes.


More specifically we need to totally decouple health insurance from employment. This is not post-ww2 anymore. No more Cadillac plans from FAANG companies either unless your paying for it out of your own pocket.

This would immediately solve half of the problems with healthcare in this country if everyone had to use the health insurance exchanges to buy insurance.


My health care plan was better and cheaper when I was working for a 50 person company than it is at a FAANG. Then again, I work for the one that is all about “frugality”....

It’s not bad, but no better than my jobs before the last one.


> And that is the way it works, in functional countries.

In Germany, neither health insurance nor unemployment insurance are paid through taxes. Both are deducted from your salary.

It is true, however, that the government subsidizes the public health insurance so that low-income households can afford an insurance.

Also, we have similar laws in Germany (and most European) countries like AB5 that prohibit misclassification of employees as independent contractors:

> https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheinselbst%C3%A4ndigkeit


How is Germany handling ride-sharing?


Sure. Once the State nationalizes unemployment insurance and healthcare insurance then we can reclassify them as contractors.


This perfectly lays bare why I disagree with the ruling: you don't actually think drivers are employees, you just want them classified as employees so they get X benefits. It's a legislative hack.

It's seems so obvious to me that we need to create a third kind of worker: not an employee, not a contractor, but a new category that has some of the extra freedom of contracting and some of the benefits of employment.

It's important that we maintain integrity in our legal system. Uber drivers are not employees, and saying "we need to classify them as employees so they get insurance" is fundamentally backwards.


No, they pretty much are employees, sorry. Under the current framework, they fit the definition of employee well in the letter and perfectly in the spirit.

Employees can have literally every single freedom that Uber drivers have. Nothing is disqualifying.

I agree that once we reform Healthcare and Unemployment, we can create a third category if we want, but there are actually no inherent disadvantages in freedom of being an employee in this case. The classification as contractor only really benefits Uber and hurts the common man.


>once we reform Healthcare

Your optimism is inspiring, but there's been "bipartisan support" for meaningful healthcare reform going as far back as Nixon. Probably further. If the people who actually make the rules wanted it done, it would be done.


I share your pessimism, it was a rhetorical device, hence the "Once we're done reforming", which will likely never happen. Since Biden is against any form of Universal Healthcare, it is literally impossible before 6 years into the future.


That still doesn't still solve the problem that drivers for UBER and Lyft don't get paid time off and paid sick leave.

Also, neither unemployment insurance nor healthcare are paid through taxes here in Germany, for example, yet the system works very well.

If the business models of Uber and Lyft cannot be profitable without misclassifying workers as independent contractors, then the business model is broken.

I don't understand why so many people, in particular from the US, have such problems understanding the reasoning behind laws to prevent the misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

It's actually very simple:

- If you're employed, you don't get to choose how you do your job and when, that's done by management. In return, the company pays your healthcare, pays unemployment and various other benefits. You are also protected through your company's liability insurance in case of an accident.

Your company basically pays you compensation for stealing your time but they are responsible for your well-being and safety during that time.

- If you're contractor, on the other hand, you get to decide how you do your job and when. You are free to decline offers, set your own prices and work with multiple partners at once. You get the maximum business freedom and are your own boss. In return, that also means you are responsible for your health insurance, your unemployment insurance and the liability insurance. You usually also can make more money as compared to being employed for the same job.

Being an employer and a self-employed contractor are fundamentally different work models with both advantages and disadvantages on their own. What Uber, Lyft and similar companies do is that they want both the benefits of an employee (being able to tell workers what to work and when) without the associated disadvantages and costs for them, shifting the risks and costs towards the workers as if they were independent contractors without the workers having the usual benefits of being an independent contractor.

And that's simply neither fair nor ethical. It's just exploitation. And that's why German (and most European law) protects workers against this misclassification.


I understand that there is significant power disparity , however this is true for most contract gigs .

If you turn down some projects and/or get back feedback most companies will give you less work .

Consultants have to be really niche and highly skilled , hard to replace to be able to meaningfully negotiate their own terms .


I am as skeptical about uber as anyone, but didn't they do this already in california?

Riders can choose their own rates, which leads to users being offered a "closer but more expensive" option. They also got rid of the decline penalty iirc.

https://www.uber.com/blog/california/set-your-fares/ https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Uber-makes-majo...


I'd just like to add here that Uber is now allowing drivers to set rates.


This comment definitely shouldn't stay buried. I wasn't aware Uber was doing this anywhere. If they are, that changes the debate.


In my country, it's illegal for the taxi driver to decline the customer unless it has valid reasons(the customer is violent or threatening, does not satisfy the hygiene standard, road is damaged etc).

I think it's a fair regulation for it will casually lead to the discrimination.

Also, in my country, being a taxi driver requires special license and certified car so Uber/Lyft doesn't offer the service. They don't want to pay the cost of checking if the contractor satisfy the requirements of license and car.


How is that regulation enforced?


By the usual law system. Police find the suspects, send it to the prosecutor, the court, lawyer, judge and all.


You're missing the part of getting evidence. Seems downright impossible to prove.


I believe it will go along the lines of a sting. Get enough complaints, send enough undercover cops on said bad rides (short routes / racial differences - whatever the drivers are being accused of) and get em.


I was going to say there's no way there's police budget for this kind of enforcement in the US but I would've been wrong:

https://gothamist.com/news/undercover-taxi-fare-investigatio...


Independent contractors can’t set their own rates or decline jobs.

FedEx uses independent contractors with established rates and requirements to carry.

There are many independent contractors who can’t set rates or choose not to do parts of the job.

Even my local barber shop co-op makes independent contractors have price ranges and doesn’t let them refuse walk ins if they are on duty.

When I was an independent contractor I paid into unemployment insurance so all these Uber drivers should have unemployment insurance that they pay themselves.


I think the distinction is that Uber is claiming to facilitate a contract between the driver and the user. In your examples, not being allowed to refuse work (I would guess) was given as terms of the contract, whereas the argument against Uber is that Uber is setting the rates that drivers are allowed to use to enter into a contract and penalizing them for not entering into a contract. That said in the system where contracts are made between drivers and riders if a drivers accepts a ride and then cancels it that would be a breach of contract and I think Uber would be right to use that as a reason for delisting drivers from their marketplace.


Uber is the market maker, so it’s a three part contract. Between driver and rider; between driver and uber; between rider and uber.

Part of the market making function is matching prices offered and taken. Theoretically Uber is chopping off all the drivers with too high a price and riders who want too low of a price and “forcing a rate” is really just matching all the compatible rates that fall into a close range (“the algorithm”).

Maybe Uber could do more to show all the incompatible rates. But I think they delist drivers who would ask too high.


> Independent contractors can’t set their own rates or decline jobs.

Yes, they can. If not, they're not independent.


Independent contractors have the same pricing ability as drivers. They can’t force people to pay higher rates any more than a driver, they can just reject jobs that don’t pay enough.

If you’re a plumber and you’re charging $1,000/hr, you’ll certainly be punished for your high prices and for rejecting work after you’ve already accepted (your public reviews on Yelp, etc will take a hit).

“Real independent contractors” have much less power than you think in a competitive market.


If politicians really want to improve things for the working class: then lower sales taxes, extend land taxes (remove loopholes), support and encourage higher-density housing (including rooming houses), ban sugar, stop legal and illegal immigration from low and moderate-HDI countries, legalise safe drugs, and decriminalise all other drugs.


How about things stay how they are, and drivers are treated as the contract they agreed to stipulates.

Mandated employment benefits are a completely unjustifiable imposition on private contracts.


We know how to solve this problem:just use an order book or auction.


Also, doesn't Lyft require drivers to have an Lyft sign on their car?


It's the government that requires a trade dress: https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/tncinfo/


This is a key point, well made.


Posted it in an other thread [0] but

Pre-Uber, either the driver rented the car to a middleman who rented the medallion from a rich owner, or said owner was selling and financing (most banks won't touch these medallions!) a medallion at a ridiculous interest rate to a driver that planned to use it as his retirement savings (an extremely volatile asset and not very liquid).

The more I spoke to cab drivers the more it seemed their industry was a pyramid schemed aimed at helping established rent-seeker take advantage of often poor new immigrants. Uber brought a breeze of fresh air: Someone could simply buy a car, calculate the depreciation and it's value on the market (since unlike medallions cars are relatively liquid assets!) do rideshare and calculate their profits or loss. They can get out of the game at anytime, and they know exactly how much they are going to get for the car they have should they sell it.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24225648


I feel like there is a general pattern. The left tends to prioritize all the good ideas: gender equality, racial equality, income gaps, etc. The right tends to prioritize systems that actually function in the real world with real people who are sometimes jealous, stupid, unethical, liars, etc. This is just a case where the first group has run amok without talking to the second group. It's the good idea of everyone should have good benefits without taking the time to design a system that actually works in the real world.

You actually see this sort of dynamic in startups where you have two people at the top. One is the creative one who pushes all the boundaries and stuff. The other person is the more pencil pusher/lawyer/business type who makes sure the bills get paid on time.

Lots of good things happen when you can get these two types working together instead of hating each other.


Good insight.

Coming together is tricky when there is no common grounds.

One side wants wealth to be fairly Evenly distributed to help the poor.

The other side helps the poor by creating so much wealth that that most poor people have a lot of wealth.

These days you can be considered poor and have housing, ac, heat, tv, video games, maybe a car, and weight problems because food is so cheap.

This only leaves those who truly can not or will not work. Severe physical or mental illness, etc.

Some can’t stand that inequality exists. Others “know” that destroying inequality means we create more poor people.

That’s not even touching right to own body vs right to life crowd. There is almost no middle ground in that battle. Either it’s removing a sac of cells or killing a baby. Maybe some wiggle room at the start, but none by end


More likely that you'll have weight problems because healthy food and lifestyles are much more difficult to acquire and maintain without sufficient wealth.


No shortage of healthy, yet poor people. Then again we go back to the problem of defining "healthy". Not even the ultra-wealthy are completely illness-free.


Healthy is a BMI in the normal range and following something close to the Harvard nutrition plate (USDA one is bought by big agriculture).

Being able to afford a meal service or go to Whole Foods is also much harder when you live in a food desert. Yes we do give people EBT or something but then it is spent on junk food/soda.

So how do you fix that? Maybe if you’re overweight medically speaking pay more in insurance/taxes? That would never fly tho so we are in the current national predicament.


It’s such a reversal. Historically Chunky woman were often considered more ideal since that meant wealth and status.

Skinny woman meant poverty.

Difficult to carry fat on a diet of turnips.


Really? Walking is free but driving isn't. More food costs more than less food. And lots of boring difficult healthy food (eg. veges) is cheaper than more pleasurable easy food (eg. fast food). Being unemployed provides more time to do healthy things than having a busy job.

I'd say the reason poor people are unhealthy is the same as the reason they're poor - unwillingness to work.


> Walking is free but driving isn't.

Living in safe neighborhood to walk in isn't cheap, nor is a gym membership, nor is having time to drive to a nice neighborhood or trailhead to hike.

> Being unemployed provides more time to do healthy things than having a busy job.

People who are chronically unemployed but physically able often have a serious mental health issue that prevents them from holding down a job.

> I'd say the reason poor people are unhealthy is the same as the reason they're poor - unwillingness to work.

The working poor usually have little time in their day to exercise for health, especially when they are working multiple low wage jobs to make ends meet. Many of them work physically demanding jobs that are bad for their health, and are exhausted by the end of their work day - and not a "good" kind of exhaustion at that.


They are poor because they live on a knife's edge, one accident away from financial insolvency or lack of sufficient access to necessities like health care and education opportunities.

Also having to work multiple jobs to break even. The problem isn't "inequality" it is that the floor in the US is so low compared to other wealthy nations.


Lots of people who make decent money live paycheck to paycheck because of poor decisions


This is a great example of having the right ideas but not understanding workable systems with real people. Let's take just one industry and I can show you how it's not as simple as you make it out to be: socialized/single-payer medicine. This is a system which reduces incentives (profits) in exchange for some equity. This is a great idea because we don't like it when people suffer. But what are the costs? Basic economics/psychology informs us that when incentives affect behavior. When the profits in healthcare are reduced there is less incentive to create new products/treatments/services. This is the tradeoff we're making. What happens down the road? Of course no one knows exactly, but we do know what will tend to happen. A new drug that might've been created in 5 years takes 7 instead. And then the next advancement that builds off that one takes even longer still. The whiz-kid who might've invented the new surgical technique which saves hundreds of lives per year might go into finance instead. What does this mean? It means we've slowed the velocity/acceleration of advancement. So people who live 50 years in the future will not have as good of healthcare as they could've if we'd left the greater incentives in place. And the people who live 100 years in the future are relatively even worse off to where they would've been because we've had 100 year at the slower pace. Since the future is functionally infinite, we are causing infinite harm to people in the future (all the advancements they won't get) at the cost of providing some comfort for some people today. And this applies to every industry, every redistribution program, every set of regulations. It's not just politics/law either, we make these decisions in our own lives every day. Are you going to buy that Apple Watch, or are you going to put that extra $ into your 401k?

Stoicism teaches us that all negative emotion is rooted in a lack of understanding. So when someone says they don't want to raise the minimum wage, or doesn't want universal healthcare, or whatever... it's helpful not to have that knee jerk reaction of "This person is bad and wants people to suffer." That's almost never the case.


First of all, "Basic economics/psychology informs" does not constitute empirical proof that UHC leads to decreased "innovation" (which is a weasel word in itself).

Second, even if we granted the premise that UHC leads to less healthcare innovation, this doesn't mean that there's "infinite harm" in to people in the future. Unless you're claiming you have a crystal ball, there is absolute 0 epistemic basis on which to make this claim. For all we know, not having UHC leads to nuclear war and we all die. Or, having UHC leads to the singularity. Etc.

Third, even if we grant that there's an innovation advantage to for-profit medicine AND we grant that you can predict the future, that still doesn't mean that there's "infinite harm", precisely because "harm" is comparative. I would argue that we've picked most of the low-hanging fruit of human medicine and that the marginal utility produced by new treatments is far outweighed by the human suffering of our for-profit system.


>First of all, "Basic economics/psychology informs" does not constitute empirical proof that UHC leads to decreased "innovation" (which is a weasel word in itself).

Either you believe humans respond to incentives or you don't. It's that simple.

> Second, even if we granted the premise that UHC leads to less healthcare innovation, this doesn't mean that there's "infinite harm" in to people in the future. Unless you're claiming you have a crystal ball, there is absolute 0 epistemic basis on which to make this claim. For all we know, not having UHC leads to nuclear war and we all die. Or, having UHC leads to the singularity. Etc.

I'm not making a "butterfly effect" argument where there's no obvious direct line between choice A and impact B. The only axiom I need is that humans respond to incentives, and then what happens when you reduce or remove incentives is obvious. You tend to get less of that thing.

>I would argue that we've picked most of the low-hanging fruit of human medicine and that the marginal utility produced by new treatments is far outweighed by the human suffering of our for-profit system.

If you believe we're basically near the end of potential for human medicine, would you support cutting subsidies and funding for research in the healthcare field?


"Either you believe humans respond to incentives or you don't. It's that simple."

Fine. I don't, at least in the simple model you present. And I hae 40 years of behavioral economics to point to.


It seems that your claim of infinite harm is based on the idea that the future is infinite. If the current subpar healthcare situation continues indefinitely, is the harm that it inflicts on its victims not also infinite? Is the benefit provided from removing this source of harm not also infinite? Then by your own reasoning, the question is not nearly as simple as infinite > finite.

Being in favour of single-payer, I can still appreciate arguments against it I guess. But this particular one isn't very effective.


Cheap healthcare advances at the same rate as expensive healthcare, it just lags some years. That's why Walmart famously has dozens of prescriptions it can offer at a price of only $4/mo. Those drugs were once very expensive and were only available to the relatively wealthy.


Once upon a time, I bought my expensive asthma inhalers from Walmart because it's the most convenient pharmacy. Then they stopped carrying it. In fact, every one did. The manufacturer's patent ran out and they stopped making it. It was several years before the drug came back on the market by which time I had moved on to another expensive inhaler.


I too was affected by this. The root cause was the CFC bans [1] to save the ozone layer. The old inhalers used CFCs and therefore could not be used anymore. New technology had to be created that used a different delivery mechanism. Profit incentive is what caused that new delivery mechanism to be created.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorofluorocarbon#Regulation

Regardless, even if you can find some legitimate counter-examples it doesn't negate my premise in the same way that anecdotes are not data.


I think you'll find that the price just changed. People are reporting absurd price drops on a wide variety of different medications. You can thank Trump for it.

It's sort of price controls, but not the usual sort. Trump decided to enforce most-favored-nation pricing. Any price can be charged, except that the USA always gets the cheapest price. The drug manufacturers are understandably livid, so they are now funding attack ads.


Yes, we always have to think about perverse incentives and the resulting unintended consequences. But some of these problems can be remedied with more government involvement. E.g., instead of allowing BigPharma to reap windfall profits (via artificial IP monopolies) to finance R&D (which they spend less on than they do on advertising), why not treat drug development as a public good and finance it accordingly? (We might see less investment in Viagra and more in anti-malaria drugs.)


> The right tends to prioritize systems that actually function in the real world

This is a lazy take - plenty of systems have been created by "the right" that don't work, even according to their stated goals. Moreover, how do you define "work", and why are things like gender and racial equality framed as extras rather than integral to evaluating whether a system works?

> This is just a case where the first group has run amok

How did you determine someone has "run amok" here? Uber/Lyft were shut down for a day - we have yet to see the long term effects of AB5 and that's where the proof is. To take a historical analogy, of course when we outlawed child labor some businesses that relied on it shut down. If we'd just said "oops, let's reverse that decision right away" we might still be left with the impression that child labor laws had failed.


>This is a lazy take - plenty of systems have been created by "the right" that don't work, even according to their stated goals. Moreover, how do you define "work", and why are things like gender and racial equality framed as extras rather than integral to evaluating whether a system works?

I don't think you understand what the word "prioritize" means.

>Uber/Lyft were shut down for a day

Uber/Lyft is not the only industry impacted.


There's a difference between being skeptical of idealistic schemes and fetishizing the status quo, which is what I think the right predominantly does.


In this case it is the Left that seems to want the status quo ante of the situation before Uber, Lyft. Uber, Lyft etc surely tried innovation in the system to the benefit of consumers and now some in left seems to want the very inefficient in place for the decades before needs to be reinstated.


Don't knock the status quo too much. The status quo is a system that brought billions of people out of abject poverty, gave us human rights, democracy, etc. We take these things for granted, but we're in an incredibly unique and very new situation where you even have the privilege to sit around and pontificate about ideas like global poverty, gender issues, gay rights, etc. Civilizations have crumbled before, and ours WILL crumble at some point in the future. One quote I like about the US is that conservatives are progressives going the speed limit. And your comment about the right fetishizing the status quo is in line with that. A progressive wants to go a mile, conservatives are like, "Ehh... let's walk a few steps in that direction and see how it goes"


The RideShareGuy is the most prominent blog for drivers and their annual survey seems to reflect that [1]

>66% of drivers said they wanted to be independent contractors vs 15.8% who wanted to be an employee

[1] https://therideshareguy.com/uber-driver-survey/


Assuming that poll is representative of the drivers' will at large, I guess then hopefully Uber and Lyft can satisfy these drivers by following the regulations required for them to be classified as independent contractors.


There is another way: laws should allow people and companies to determine their own terms for collaboration, instead of meddling with their freedom of association.


Nothing is keeping Uber and Lyft from determining their own terms. However, the terms they choose affect the taxes they pay and the benefits they provide. If they want certain terms, then they need to accept the regulations that come with them.

So I guess I'm not really sure what your point is. Is your point that companies shouldn't be required to follow labor/tax law? What's the difference between this and saying that you don't want to pay payroll taxes on employees? Or that you want to pay a lower rate? Or that you don't want to pay import taxes or that you don't want to follow required laws in what you may put in the products you sell? What exactly makes Uber and Lyft so special that they should get to choose what rules they are to follow?


There's lots of ways to lie with surveys, I wonder what the exact wording was and what the responses would be to variants such as:

1. Do you want to be CEO of your own company or a peon employee?

2. Do you want uber to set your hours?

3. Do you want medical, vacation days, or unemployment insurance?

For some people these are all basically the same questions. For most folks, I don't think they are.


Very curious about this trend I've seen on HN where instead of going to the primary source, commenters will take 2x the time to hypothesize about what the primary source could contain.

In this particular case it was so easy that it really makes me wonder.

I can think of a couple of reasons:

* Uncertainty with where in the primary source the content is

* Concern that you're being Gish Galloped with citations

* Lack of skill at skimming

Anyway, the source is particularly weird with the way it links to things and stuff but it wasn't that hard to find. I went through it and then decided to screen record the interaction afterwards. It's my second time going through but not that different from the first.

Using headlines, pull quotes, and pictures as the things I'm aiming for, I got there in 30 s. I think your comment would have taken longer for me to have written than 30 s.

https://gfycat.com/rashwholeindianjackal


There's a psychological reward to having other people read what you write, and possibly getting upvotes.

This reward exceeds the reward from learning the actual information.

Many platforms are plagued by people more interested in being heard than learning facts.


> When we polled drivers about their preference between remaining an independent contractor or becoming an employee, an overwhelming number of drivers wanted to remain independent.

> "What type of employment relationship would you like to have with rideshare companies"

> (A) I don't know the difference: 3.3%

> (B) I'd like to be an employee: 20.8%

> (C) I'd like to be an independent contractor: 75.9%

https://therideshareguy.com/california-sues-uber-and-lyft-fo...


Is 734 out of a population of 80,000 a representative sample? And even if it is, are the 80,000 people on their mailing list a representative sample of all drivers?

Not saying they aren't, but I... just don't know.


"Representativeness" has to do with the process of sampling, not the sample size -- a sample of one is in fact a representative sample of the population in the sense of being unbiased for the quantity of interest.

Here's a simple anecdote: suppose you want to measure how often a coin comes up heads. The true answer is 50% heads. If your "sample" is a single coin flip, the answer will always be 100% or 0% (both wrong answers!). Maybe you do this experiment and get 100% and I do it and get 0%. But since the magnitude of the error will be the same on either side, on average across many repetitions of the experiment (this is called a "sampling distribution") we'll get the right answer.

What adding additional sample size does is reduce the variance of the estimated statistic -- that is to say reduce the degree to which the estimate of the parameter moves around across samples. If I flip the coin 100 times and you flip the coin 100 times, we're both likely to get very close answers to one another.

The bigger concern here is not sample size, it's whether the sampling was random (it was not) and whether the sample frame -- the population from which they were sampling -- matches the population of interest (it does not, as you suggest in your post, so your instincts here are good!).

There is very little reason to believe the people who chose to reply to the email are as-if random with respect to the question being asked. Rather, I would expect diehards of RideShareGuy (who likely converge on RSG's approximate editorial position on this issue) are more likely to reply. There is also likely to be confounding based on age, hours worked per week, geographical location in the country, etc.

There is also very little reason to believe RideShareGuy's mailing list represents rideshare drivers as a whole; again, selection based on age, tech savvy, English competency, SES, geographic location, etc. all likely to be confounders.

If this were a classical random sample of a valid sample frame, the parameter of interest would have a classical margin of error +- 3.6%, which is small compared to the overall story being told. This speaks to your concern. A simple rule of thumb is that classical MOEs are +- 1/sqrt(n) where n is the sample size. This comment is too long so I won't get into the derivation here.

I actually think this question presents a lot of interesting problems for a survey statistician. In particular, I would guess there is extreme subgroup heterogeneity -- that is to say there are classes of people who overwhelmingly want to be contractors and classes of people who overwhelmingly want to be employees. My guess would be that the population-wide parameter is of little interest compared to identifying those groups. If we discovered that, say, every person above 40 hours a week wanted to be an employee and every person below wanted to be a contractor, it'd be an error to present a weighted average of the groups versus exploring policy solutions that reflect that heterogeneity.


Thanks for the detailed dive into this! I found it really interesting.

> The bigger concern here is not sample size, it's whether the sampling was random

This confuses me a little. Aren't both of those things pretty important? To go back to your first sentence, a sample size of one could be perfectly random, but it will be pretty useless at telling us anything interesting about the population. Obviously that's a silly case, but what about 10 people? 100? I would venture to guess that a random sample of 100 out of 80,000 people would be unlikely to tell you anything useful about those 80,000 people, at least not without a margin of error much higher than the effect being measured. So that suggests to me that sample size is pretty important too.

> If we discovered that, say, every person above 40 hours a week wanted to be an employee and every person below wanted to be a contractor, it'd be an error to present a weighted average of the groups versus exploring policy solutions that reflect that heterogeneity.

That's a really good point. It's possible, and likely, that any single chosen classification is going to make a lot of people unhappy. Better might be to develop new rules and classes that fit the situation and different drivers' needs better.


Sorry I missed your reply here, but on the off-change you get this: a random sample of 10 people is unbiased for the entire population. A random sample of 1 person is unbiased for the entire population. The limitation of very low sample size is that it is going to produce high variance; on average it will be correct, but across multiple surveys our estimates will move around a lot. We can define a margin of error around our estimate to formally account for this. If what we're interested in is a binary yes/no answer, using the classical calculations and without trying to add more complexity for you, the margin of error is +/- 1/sqrt(n), so a sample of 100 people gets you in a qualitative ballpark of whether a property is very common, common, rare, or very rare. If you want to tell whether 69% and 71% reflect statistically different underlying propensities, you will need a much bigger sample. But if you just need to know "does there exist a decent swath of people who say yes to this?", a very small sample will do on average.

The full population size is generally irrelevant statistically (it applies to a "finite population correction"). Almost all the statistics you see presented publicly ignore FPCs by assuming the population is infinitely larger than the sample. Even when people take census reads of a full population they typically assume the population is a realized sample of a larger meta-population.

In general if you are seeing publicly presented poll data, sample size is not the thing that should be sending up red flags. Differential non-response and selection bias; sample frame matching or not matching the population; underlying noise in the conceptual measure; design effects caused by weighting; and many other components are all part of "TSE" (total survey error), which dwarfs the impact of sampling variation as a concern.

Now, mind you, subgroup analyses often do cut samples too finely... e.g., an N=500 sample subset to Men 65+ and people trying to make inferences but not properly reflecting either the sampling considerations or reduced subgroup sample size).

Let it also be noted from those classical calculations that larger samples are diminishing returns: N = 1000 -> 3.1% -> N = 5000 -> 1.4%. Five times the cost of surveying if not more, only a halving of the margin of error, and limited extra power to answer most real questions of interest.


The secret is that your status has nothing to do with what you want but the terms of employment. It doesn't matter if 100% of them want to be contractors the judge just ruled it doesn't count as contractors by law.

If Uber wants contractors they need to make sure the terms of their employment follow the law, including classification.


I rarely use ridesharing apps but I always ask about this kind of thing and I have the same takeaway as you.

The drivers seem to like the situation they are in.

I could really care less about the "technically..." type of arguments. The drivers don't think they are being exploited, they like the job and the freedom it gives them. Any law that puts an end to that is _bad_ for those people.

Just because these laws were put in place to help people doesn't mean they always help people. The people who are supposedly being helped by the law here think it's hurting them. The law is supposed to serve the people, not the other way around. The law needs to change to allow these people to continue the situation they enjoy.

It drives me crazy to read people arguing about the technicalities of the law and ignoring what the supposedly exploited people are saying.


> The drivers seem to like the situation they are in.

Yet when you explain to them what they are missing, what employees get, they also like that.


Do you also explain some of the downsides of being an employee? I don’t know if they are dying for the rigid hours, bureaucracy, same environment etc. it’s not all upside being an employee


The talking points I heard was that this was done because of

1) Payroll tax revenue 2) Unions feeling threatened

The implication is in either case it’s an explicitly hostile action by the government in favor of special interests, and the majority of drivers did not want this.

Can anyone more knowledgeable on the topic pitch in — is there any truth to these arguments?


The Los Angeles taxi union prevented (read: bribed and coerced) the state / city government from installing a train from LAX to DTLA because they were rolling in cash.

Then, they got pissed about Uber, and had a rule enacted that forced passengers to take a bus to an external lot which turned the world's worst airport congestion into a way worse situation.

It is not unrealistic to think that they are a driving force behind this situation as well. California is corrupt as fuck, from GM paying LA to take out way more efficient train lines so they could sell buses to Beverly Hills preventing LA from building a subway. It makes living here absolutely miserable.


@tom No, it's not being built. The train that is currently under construction will connect the airport terminals to a cab stand and car rental station less than a mile from the airport because LA taxi drivers threw a shit fit when they suggested building a train into downtown and Santa Monica.

By the way, we're paying $4 billion for that. $4 billion to carry passengers less than a mile from the airport so they can then take a cab...

LA cab drivers are all unionized now and they had their entire hand stuck in this process. It was corruption as an art form.

Our government sucks.


The train that is currently under construction will connect the airport terminals to a cab stand and car rental station less than a mile from the airport because LA taxi drivers threw a shit fit when they suggested building a train into downtown and Santa Monica.

This is false to the point of being deliberate FUD.

The LAX people mover is $4 billion because the FAA requires a fuck-ton of care to be taken so that construction and the people-mover itself doesn't interfere with the operation of the airport. It is a 2.25 mile system with 6 stations: the terminals, the rental car facility, the parking lots, the metro station, and two employee-only facilities.

The shuttle you speak of will only operate for 2-3 years, between the parking facility (expected completion 2021) and the terminals, while the Peoplemover is built out to the terminals (expected completion: 2023).

LA taxi drivers had literally no influence over the design of the airport or public transportation to it. I don't understand the bizarre logic required to think that a few hundred people making just above minimum wage have the political leverage to block a multi-billion dollar project.


No, it's not. Nothing you wrote contradicted anything I said. The ultimate passenger destinations are less than 1 mile from the airport. They do not include connections to ongoing transportation other than cars, buses, and taxis. It cost $4 billion for something that adds little to no value.

LA taxi drivers were actively protesting outside of the airport when the original train was proposed. Stop lying.

I agree with you. It is bizarre that they have any influence whatsoever, but they do, and they have been forcefully exerting it for decades.


The ultimate passenger destinations are less than 1 mile from the airport. They do not include connections to ongoing transportation other than cars, buses, and taxis. It cost $4 billion for something that adds little to no value.

Again, that is completely false.

Only the parking lot facility is less than a mile from the airport terminals. The public transportation hub itself is 1.25 miles away from the airport; the same facility will provide access to rail, bus, taxi, and apptaxi (fka rideshare), and the rental car facility at the end of the people mover is roughly 1.5 miles away (across the street from the transportation hub), or roughly 2.25 miles from the other end of the peoplemover in front of tom bradley. https://www.lawa.org/-/media/lawa-web/connecting-lax/lamp-bu...

LA taxi drivers were actively protesting outside of the airport when the original train was proposed. Stop lying.

Yes, they were. And their protests accomplished nothing. Because taxi drivers have no leverage.

It is bizarre that they have any influence whatsoever, but they do, and they have been forcefully exerting it for decades.

No, they have not. They have had literally no influence on public transportation to the airport.

Think about it: they couldn't even stop Uber and Lyft from operating at the airport. And you think they had the leverage to stop public transportation for decades?

(Another example: Uber complained about the new temporary pickup lot for taxis/apptaxis, and LAX made changes the next day to accommodate apptaxis. The taxi drivers made the same complaints...and got no changes at all...Almost a year later, the regular taxis are still complaining about those same issues.)


What rail? The one into Inglewood? Super helpful for everyone involved.

I'm not arguing the measurement of 1 mile versus 1.5 miles with you. You are nitpicking to confuse the argument and it doesn't change the point in the least.

I have lived in LA long enough to see proposal after proposal made, the taxis protest, and the proposals get canned. You can talk about lack of influence all you want, but they have gotten their way every time they made a statement for the last several decades by threatening to shutdown airport traffic. They are nothing but thugs.


Blame the corrupt officials that enabled this, you can hardly blame a union for trying to act in their own self interest. They don't represent you but the city does.


I'll continue to blame the minority interests that are doing everything possible to keep LA transportation stuck in the stone ages, thank you.


I mean sure but to what end?

Regardless, you couldn't have this effect without the corrupt politicians that ARE supposed to represent your interests, unlike the taxi union. What's the point of raging at perfectly understandable lobbying?


It's possible to blame both. You can certainly blame the union for acting against the common good.


The Los Angeles taxi union prevented (read: bribed and coerced) the state / city government from installing a train from LAX to DTLA because they were rolling in cash.

This is false. Pure FUD. The LA taxi union isn't a very powerful union, and was never the primary roadblock to building the Green Line all the way to the airport. The FAA was the reason: they thought the power lines for the rail line would interfere with landing paths of planes. https://www.dailynews.com/2008/01/09/why-green-line-stopped-...

California is corrupt as fuck, from GM paying LA to take out way more efficient train lines so they could sell buses to Beverly Hills preventing LA from building a subway. It makes living here absolutely miserable.

This is also a fraudulent representation of history. The old rail lines (i.e., Pacific Electric) were never profitable because they were intended as loss leaders for suburban housing developments. The lines ultimately went bankrupt when cars became popular because they had a max speed of approximately 15 mph. When LA formed its nascent public transportation system in the 50s, it acquired the few busy/profitable lines remaining. Some of those rights of way were used for new rail construction (for example, the E line to Santa Monica).


Every other city in the country has figured out rail transportation. The FAA could have been pacified if there was any political will to find a real solution. Blaming the FAA because they rejected one design is pure bs.

GM most definitely ran a campaign through the '50s and '60s designed to increase the use of buses as a replacement for street cars. That's not anywhere close to debatable and LA was not the only city that went along with it.

And if you're going to continue to claim that corruption is not the driving force behind these decisions then I would love your explanation for BH doing everything in their power to prevent and delay a rail line because they didn't want homeless people to be have easy access to the area. It's all about money, not the common good. Nobody here is planning for anything other than their own pocketbook.


The FAA could have been pacified if there was any political will to find a real solution. Blaming the FAA because they rejected one design is pure bs.

It's literally the truth. You can't build a rail to the airport if the ultimate governing body for airports in the country won't let you build the rail to the airport. It took decades to get the FAA to withdraw its opposition, and that didn't happen until a Democratic president took over.

I would love your explanation for BH doing everything in their power to prevent and delay a rail line because they didn't want homeless people to be have easy access to the area.

That's not corruption. That's residents of the city of Beverly Hills being opposed to having a rail line in their city because they don't want homeless people having easy access. (And they're not wrong to be worried about it; the homeless use the E Line daily to shuttle between Santa Monica and downtown LA.) It's not corruption simply because you disagree with them. That's how democracy works.

Notably, the businesses in Beverly Hills were very much in favor of a rail line station terminating in the city. However, businesses aren't voters, so if the rail station had been built over the objections of the voting residents, that would be an example of corruption.


Was there ever a legitimately priced proposal for a train to go from LAX to DTLA? The only reason the Expo line worked was because the rights of way, and in some cases the rail itself, was already in place. I don't remember seeing anything other than concepts for an LAX train (not the people mover under construction now, an actual train) and thinking they would never get the funding and permits to make it work.

To your comment about rideshare pickups at the terminals. Just no. Pre-COVID I was flying for work weekly and Uber & Lyft pickups were awful for congestion in the circle, in addition to taking forever to get to you. It was often faster to walk off-airport and get a ride from the Hyatt. And that was with normal level of traffic, not the expected Olympics-level. I'm sure the taxi union was involved, but the decision to switch to LAX-it made a whole lot of sense.


Also a frequent flier. It sucked before but the solution was 100% designed to benefit cab drivers. Moreover, it absolutely fucked up the entrance to the airport which went from long, but doable, to dozens of people missing their flights per-day bad.

I live in Playa Vista and had a 1.5 hour trip to LAX in November. I was this close to driving through there at 3am and stealing every one of their traffic cones.


What "Los Angeles taxi union" organization specifically lobbied against the LAX train, which, by the way, is now being built?

There may well have been industry lobbyists fighting this but until very recently (the last five years) almost no taxi drivers in Los Angeles were unionized.


> which, by the way, is now being built

Yea, over 25 years late.

The Green Line (opened 1995) was originally supposed to have a real LAX station, instead of the (current) station-near-LAX-with-a-bus-transfer. The Crenshaw Corridor train (which connects to the Green Line) will open an LAX station sometime in 2021, if it isn't delayed.


The Green Line (opened 1995) was originally supposed to have a real LAX station

...until the FAA intervened and said the Metro couldn't build all the way out to the airport, due to the potential danger from crossing existing flight paths. (In a nutshell: the Green Line would have crossed perpendicularly to the existing runways, which would be fine normally but a huge risk in the event a plane overshoots or undershoots the runway.)


I remember when there was a crackdown on software independent contractors. What most contractors did was go through an agency that managed your services. The difference in pay was usually 20% since the agency took 20% of your pay.

I suspect this will happen ultimately with the drivers - although I can't imagine the drivers will be thrilled with a 20% cut in pay.


20% cut on top of the 30-40% that uber/lift take?


I believe the idea is that employee protections and standards must come from the government.

Sometimes it comes up naturally (see the benefits of being a software engineer) but when unemployment is high those protections tend to go away especially for jobs that have minimal barrier of entry (ie ride share driver). Right now drivers have very little leverage or power over Lyft/Uber except for not participating in their market.

The question of AB5 is the right protections and classifying them as employees is I think the debate. I believe most drivers want independence b/c most drivers only drive part time. But the drivers who drive full time want better protections.


I tend to agree with this, I've always thought ridesharing was rather beautiful in terms of economic efficiency: pair those with extra money but who don't want to drive at that moment with those with extra time who want money. As long as there is adequate education about the all-in costs of car ownership I am all on board. And at scale it reduces traffic (or at least amount of cars in an area).


In ages past my first thoughts upon hearing of Uber was entirely about "matching" as you described.

I recall thinking it would be great for adhoc rideshare commuting to/from work.

Somewhere it turned into a money sucking business platform. Maybe because it required funds to run the servers required and went off the rails from there?


Or maybe because the supply side is full of drivers doing the job for less pay than they should reasonably agree to, betting on a windfall from AB5?


This is about bureaucrats. This is about politicians seeking lobbying dollars, and return the favor with policy changes, just like it was in NYC.

In NYC, the Taxi and Limousine companies were one of the top donors to the Mayoral race and, naturally, the Mayor strangled Uber/Lyft soon after.


> I really struggle to understand why we need bureaucrats imposing their idea of what a market should look like on an fairly efficient market.

Because, that's not the argument. The argument is the precedent it sets. We've seen companies utilize weak independent contractor regulations in the past to take advantage of individuals (most specifically, the Dynamex case that lead directly to this), despite many of them not knowing/not complaining. This is why California is so hard on independent contractors. I would prefer a state strong on worker's rights than vice versa.

> From my experience the drivers are perfectly aware of the costs that go into driving so I really don't buy the exploitation argument.

Your anecdotes don't mean anything, sorry. We have vast evidence that companies will take advantage of worker's in an independent contractor situation to their benefit. We have evidence that Uber had requirements in it's worker interactions (route penalties, hour requirements, etc) that do not fit independent contractor ideals.

> Seems like a loss for everyone except bureaucrats.

The bureacrats gain nothing.

> Also don't see how it's realistic to expect them to be able to adjust to this on a dime.

I can only assume you don't live in California. This isn't on a dime. They were notified over three years ago. The FTB and legislature have been on them about it constantly. The law was introduced in 2018-12-03 and signed into law on 2019-09-18. I know operations can be slow, but two years should be plenty of time, considering how fast they were able to adjust to failing markets like Germany that they ultimately lost anyways.

> Although large, California is still a minority of their revenue.

It makes up 16% of Lyft and Uber's users. It has the highest valued rides, lowest effective overhead (driver retention, driver acquisition, passenger acquisition) and most effective mileage.

But you're right, they should give up their most established and profitable market or California should shut up. Because you talked to some people.


>Completely anecdotal but I bring this question up every time I drive in an Uber and overwhelmingly the drivers tell me they want to stay independent.

Why would you bring this up every time you get in an Uber? Have you considered that maybe, just maybe, these people are concerned about complaining to a stranger about their "employer"?

Imagine someone walking into your office and asking you, "hey, do you like this company?"


This is a disgusting comment and shows an incredible lack of understanding around how labor rights historically have been both won and lost.

The further allowance of classifying people as contractors will only expand until companies can further use this as a tool to pay people less and avoid taxes (where based on federal judicial precedent, the healthcare premiums both individuals and employers pay are considered taxes under federal law). Today Uber drivers, tomorrow nurses and teachers, ect. Also people are absolutely being forced into working as rideshare and delivery drivers, the alternatives are often destitute poverty.

These companies had a long time to get their act together on this issue, they just decided that a capital strike was more favorable to them at this time.

Until we live in a country where healthcare is separate from employment, hiring someone on as a contractor just so you can avoid healthcare costs for them is absolutely exploitative (both of the law, and to the workers themselves).


imo biggest problem with the independent argument is Uber and Lyft actively penalizes you as a driver if you decline unprofitable trips. Also I believe Lyft (unsure about Uber) even stopped showing you how much you make per trip and instead just rolls it into one summary, presumably to make it harder for you to do the cost/benefit of deciding whether a trip is worth doing.

that sort of big brother behavior is the antithesis of independence and throws out any argument that Uber is somehow just providing drivers with lead gen software like they’re Salesforce or something


I agree, the driver's independence is only one way : when convenient to them.

Both Uber and Lift should lower their cut and stop these practices if they really want the drivers to remain independent


yeah it feels like a few product level changes could easily swing the argument back in their favor - but I guess the risk has always been the impact to the efficiency of the marketplace and overall customer experience.


A couple of points.

1. Valid survey questions are very hard to phrase. Asking someone about their job when their job depends on your goodwill in not conducive to truthful answers.

2. Given the corporations' behavior, the driver's job depends on their following the corporate script.


Because taxpayers in the state of CA are in effect picking up the slack when the employer fails to pay for sick and family leave, unemployment, and healthcare.

This change didn't happen overnight. AB5 was passed 6+ months ago, after over a year of political negotiation.


Because I’m stuck footing the bill for everything Uber(and by proxy their drivers) are not paying into.

Currently, we all paid for their Covid unemployment benefits that they did not pay into.

We pay for unpaid hospital bills after accidents because they did not pay into workers compensation.

We’ll pay for disability after those accidents that they did not pay into.

Uber and Uber drivers a freeloading off a system we are paying into.

If they want to pretend they are not employees, then they should all have to pay into all these things themselves.


I think the problem is that driver’s want to remain independent, but their cost is borne by the society. Such as the recent CAREs act had unemployment for drivers. I am assuming they also get subsidized healthcare, and would be eligible for Medicare ? Their employers don't really contribute to these things. But perhaps the law should just have complied them to contribute via additional taxes instead of asking them to be classified


If you're an IC, you have to pay Self-Employment Tax to cover the employer's part of the payroll tax deductions. Plus you're also liable for all the usual payroll taxes. That burden doesn't go away just because you get a 1099 instead of a W-2. So it's the drivers who are in theory paying in to healthcare subsidies and Medicare.


Taxes are on earnings after top-of-the-line deductions for business expenses including gas and depreciation that they'd lose on the W-2. Drivers aren't stupid as you think.


If they were employees they would be required to be reimbursed for business expenses including commercial insurance, and mileage to cover gas and depreciation.


The reimbursement requirement is baselined with respect to minimum wage, so it could be effectively $0. If it is not $0, the form would be additional W-2 pay, which is allowed by law, and this would be subject to all taxes. On top of the tax loss, calculation would not be at the generous IRS mileage rate that drivers currently exploit, but true expenses which most say are lower. Yet people continue to think drivers are stupider than they are at doing what they do every day. It's pretty fucking arrogant.


CA requires that employers reimburse employees for work related expenses, so there is no issue with expense kickback taking someone below minimum wage. Reimbursement is not earned wages, it is not taxed. It is true reimbursement could be lower than the IRS rate, but actual costs are pretty close to the IRS mileage rate in practice. Depreciation has a real cost that is ignored by many


I'm sure there's a few drivers really want to stay independent, but have you considered that the majority only "want tob stay independent" because the current situation? That doing this full time won't be enough income to feed the family, so they want to stay independent in order to have another job? If doing this full time is enough income, maybe they no longer need to be independent?


My impression is that Uber fulfills a niche for drivers who want a certain tradeoff between flexibility and job security. There are people who fit into that niche and people who don't, but forcing the company to change its value proposition is going to make some people start or stop driving for Uber depending on how well the new contract suits them. This could be a net economic win or loss, but we don't know the numbers. In the long run, if there are enough drivers who value the flexible arrangement that Uber provides, then either another company will fill that niche or these people will find similar work elsewhere.


Imagine for arguments sake you were deriving your income from a company that’s known to be highly aggressive in suppressing threats to their business model.

Imagine that you held an opinion that was counter to a major legal and public option battle that company was engaged in.

In the situation, what would you say if someone approached you while you were on the job and started asking for your opinion on this topic?


California is about 5% of revenue for Uber.


Maybe, but this law will prevent Uber from ever turning a profit in CA, so it's far easier to just shutdown operations, and move their headquarters.

I live here, pay taxes here, and vote here. I am actively rooting against the state right now.


Ironically, according to their SEC filings, CA (and specifically SF/Bay Area and LA/OC) was one of Uber's few profitable markets, pre-COVID.


CA is 12% of Uber's revenue and 25% of Lyft's revenue


Source? I've seen many different figures (including a very reliable source that stated it was in the single digits for Uber)


I was actually off. CA is 9% of Uber's ride share and 21% of Lyft's[1]. Which would likely translate to higher revenue share.

[1] https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Uber-and-Lyft-r...


You've asked for a source without linking your "very reliable source".


Uber's CEO is my source


Uber's CEO is referring to COVID-era percentages.

Pre-CVOID, according to their SEC filings, SF, LA, and NY were Uber's only profitable markets.


Ah, then these numbers make sense. Thanks!


Do you have a link? Or you had a personal conversation with them?


Uber/Lyft drivers don't badmouth it.

Would you if some random person, who for all you know could be an Uber/Lyft employee, and even if not, is someone who uses Uber/Lyft and therefore is likely happy with it, asks you a question about it?


Whether or not a group of people is aware of their exploitation should not be a factor in whether or not a society allows their exploitation.


Ah, well. I think I can make this circular. It is perhaps exploitative to demand these laws. It's unfair treatment of Uber/Lyft employees to imposing regulatory regimes against their wishes (claiming it actually benefits them) to satisfy the political benefits/desires of an outside group. Society should not allow that exploitation to exist whether or not the outside group realizes it is exploitation.


It's pretty silly to say that protecting workers is exploitative. You're essentially trying to redefine the word "exploitation" be reversing its meaning.


It's pretty silly to make an absolute claim that one is protecting workers when that is far from obvious.


Yes, it's amazing that the top comment misses the point completely. Plenty of inmates become "institutionalized" and claim they would prefer to stay in prison, but no one would ever cite that as a legitimate reason to keep them there.


What flexibility will drivers be forced to give up if they are classified as part-time or full-time employees by Uber?


> drivers tell me they want to stay independent

This whole business has nothing to do with the drivers, neither what they want, what's good for them or even what's good for customers.

It's about a class of politicians (unions and the leftist politicians they back/finance) scared to death to see their historical grip on power disappear because of a paradigm shift and who are using the people's goody-two-shoes knee-jerk reflexes to try and regain said grip.


Because it's inconsistent. If you allow drivers to work without protections you should allow everyone to work without protections.

There are some issues though; for one the state ends up subsidising workers who don't have good unemployment and health insurance.

The best solution would be UBI - give people enough money to live on while removing worker protections like minimum wage and mandatory insurances.


What they are telling you is that they don’t want anyone to set their working hours for them. That’s all


But you also have people like DHH claiming otherwise.

To those of us not living in US, America just feels like a nation that constantly shout at each other, and now it is amplify by its a dominant media platform; Twitter. Considering lots of news media quote, find new information and use Twitter.

And no one wants to compromise.


I promise you, real life in America is nothing like Twitter.


Either one is an arbitrary choice that influences the market.

Why should a supposedly free society be free to accept only how Uber or Lyft might have it?

It isn’t just bureaucrats but the public that votes them in. You’re cherry picking bits n pieces from the broader social narrative to highlight. Why should anyone care what any random poster on HN thinks is just as valid and vapid a question once you take 5 minutes to think it over.

HN is just as knee jerky and shallow as Twitter and Reddit. Don’t kid yourselves folks


Sure, Uber drivers aren't forced to work at Uber specifically, but everyone is obligated to work in a capitalist society if they want to survive, so it is important that employers in general are bound by laws that protect workers.

In this case, California created new laws in response to employee abuses at Uber and Lyft.

This notion that Uber and Lyft drivers can afford to quit and find a new career is infantile. The real world does not work that way, and people who labor for low wages should be protected from abuse.


We should all care. Uber doesn't provide health insurance. Instead Uber drivers get their healthcare costs covered by the rest of us (either via ACA subsidies or written-off care provided to the uninsured).


Making them employees doesn't give them health insurance. Only if they work over 30 hours a week, which Uber is highly incentived to cap.

Besides, what you are actually stating is that Uber riders should pay for Uber driver's health insurance, rather than the general population.


Correct. Uber drivers should play by the same health insurance rules as other workers. And under today's laws that requires they become employees.

Ideally health insurance should be decoupled from employment status, but until then, we should all play by the same rules.


Again, I'm not following. Even if Uber drivers became employees I don't see why they'd even get health insurance.

(This seems to be more about minimum wage, workers comp, UI, etc. which they would get)


So now uber drivers can only work 28 hours a week and now can't afford health care....


> Uber drivers get their healthcare costs covered by the rest of us

So what? People without jobs also get their healthcare covered by MediCal (with zero out of pocket expenses). Is that also a problem? Wouldn't it be better if we had universal healthcare?


It would be better if we had universal healthcare, but that will not happen for, at the very least, 6 years. Meanwhile, Uber should not be allowed to undercut competitors by simply offloading costs to the common man.


Uber drivers pay taxes on earnings as contractors too. This at least partially covers ACA subsidies (if not fully).

And we subsidize employer-provided healthcare also, hence its existence.


Employer-provided healthcare is a byproduct of WWII-era price-fixing that gave employers no way to compete on wages (so they started competing on benefits, including healthcare).


Yes, but we still subsidize it by allowing those earnings to be tax-free.


>Completely anecdotal but I bring this question up every time I drive in an Uber and overwhelmingly the drivers tell me they want to stay independent. No one is forcing drivers into their jobs. I really struggle to understand why we need bureaucrats imposing their idea of what a market should look like on an fairly efficient market.

Everyone who works for Lyft or Uber is making an active choice to work for Lyft or Uber. It isn't surprising they would choose to continue working for them rather than risk losing that job entirely. That doesn't mean these people aren't being taken advantage of by these companies.

It is comparable to someone being paid below minimum wage under the table. If that person entered into that arrangement voluntarily, they likely did it because that is their best option. If that person is given the choice of supporting a lower minimum wage or being fired, they will likely support the lower minimum wage. That doesn't mean that society as a whole would benefit from a lower minimum wage. We should instead enact laws we think are best for society as a whole (I'm not convinced that AB5 is necessarily that, but I am speaking generally here) while also implementing social policies that can take care of the people like this who are caught in the transition of raising labor standards.


Exploitation does not just go away when you consensually sign a contract.

In any idea that these folks resemble independent contractors in any way is bullshit. They can't set the rates of the rides or that they give to Uber or Lyft. They can't set the basic terms on when and where you accept rides. When someone doesn't want to drive me across the bay, I can hardly blame them, but they have no leverage to dictate their own employment except by quitting. I guess these people end up accepting some kind of opaque, kafkaesque punishment to their livelihood. Independent my ass.

Granted, single payer healthcare would ameliorate some of the problems here, but it's very difficult to categorize the cut that Uber or Lyft takes for the commodity service they provide, protected by absolutely massive moats of capital, as anything but exploitative.


> overwhelmingly the drivers tell me they want to stay independent.

However, I overwhelmingly don't want to pay for their healthcare or food stamps because they aren't earning enough money.

I personally think that AB5 doesn't go far enough. If you employ people for more than 40 hours, you should owe healthcare and benefits, period. It doesn't matter whether those 40 hours are one person or 10 people or whether the people are contractors or employees. If you can't deliver benefits, fine, then you owe as payment to the government to provide that.

We WANT people to have stable employment, not gigs.


Sure, but you can't always get what you want.

Not every business model is economically viable, and (at a guess) rideshare-drivers-as-employees might be one of those un-viable models.

You can ban exploiting labor, you can force companies to share more with the workers, but you can't legislate well-paying jobs into existence. You might view Uber as an exploitative employer, but it isn't some wildly-profitable company that is failing to share its bountiful profits with the workers.

I don't care whether Uber and Lyft stop doing business in CA as a result of AB5, but I think that's a fairly predictable outcome.


> Not every business model is economically viable, and (at a guess) rideshare-drivers-as-employees might be one of those un-viable models.

And that's fine. We have minimum wage laws for a reason.

A "contractor" who is earning near or below minimum wage isn't a contractor--they're a mechanism to skirt labor law.

I want to see every layer of "contracting" have to pay benefits. If the contractor is expensive enough (aka $100K+ a year), people won't care. But, yeah, if the "contractor" is skirting labor law, they'll lose--big time.

> I don't care whether Uber and Lyft stop doing business in CA as a result of AB5, but I think that's a fairly predictable outcome.

I'm willing to roll the dice on this one. The last time Uber and Lyft pulled this stunt (Austin), a whole bunch of companies stood up to take their place. Uber and Lyft then went to the state to override Austin--so we never got to see the end evolution of that.

Maybe the business model isn't viable. However, I'm willing to let a bunch of people try competing against it without having to compete against VC subsidy.


But not allowing those people to work with uber would just make them... even more dependant on the state? Either:

1) They are driving because it's the best opportunity available for them, and losing that possibility would force them to work less desirable/paying jobs, have less disposable income if uber is just a side gig for them or just end up unemployed. Which would lead to them contributing even less to their healthcare/education/etc costs.

Or

2) You are assuming that they are driving even if they can get 40h jobs with good benefits but just choose... not to? Or that if uber inevitably ends up closing their California operations, they will magically find those cushier jobs & those who drive to add to their income will just find an extremely flexible side gig that can net them hundreds of dollars a month?

I don't understand how unemployment is a more desirable outcome. Because uber will absolutely not pay for each of their driver's benefits. And that's even if they were able to afford it (they absolutely can't).


> However, I overwhelmingly don't want to pay for their healthcare or food stamps because they aren't earning enough money.

So you response is to support a solution where they can't earn any money because it's not enough money? Congratulations, now these people are idle and you're now paying even more to cover their needs whereas previously your taxes only had to cover some of their needs and they could participate actively in the economy, working their way up to better opportunities.


> whereas previously your taxes only had to cover some of their needs

I don't believe this. I also pay for the negative externalities due to them driving: increased traffic, increased pollution, increased accident rates, hospitalization (driving is one of the most dangerous acts for people under 30), etc. I don't believe that the tiny amount they get driving for Uber/Lyft even slightly offsets this.

> working their way up to better opportunities.

Unfortunately, Uber/Lyft are a trap because they sink time in return for not very much money and give you nothing in return. I would rather support those people idle--so they can go to school, learn English better, learn a trade, work a job that has a promotion path, etc.


Some people explicitly want gigs.


> If you employ people for more than 40 hours, you should owe healthcare and benefits, period

Why? Why should personal healthcare be coupled to employment? You are responsible for your health, not someone else.


Applications are open for YC Winter 2023

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: