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California gig workers are taking a stand against mal labor practices by companies like Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and others. Just like employees at worksites for Amazon, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Chipotle, and other major companies. They are forming a union designed to give them a strong collective voice and power. 

California gig workers want the right to bargain for fair wages, increased flexibility, health benefits, and basic worker protections — which gig companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and others have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to deny.

For years, gig companies have exempted themselves from providing basic protections and rights to their workers, including a minimum wage, overtime pay, paid time off, and access to compensation when they are injured on the job. Those companies with the help of large financial institutions and investors, have undermined these protections. 

By misclassifying their workers as independent contractors these companies exempt themselves from providing worker protections. They also offload costs such as car payments, gasoline, maintenance, insurance, and more onto workers.

Reyna Hernandez, an Uber driver, noted with the terrible working conditions many other gig workers have expressed.

“I had awful pay, no benefits, and if the passenger ever reported me, they would believe the passenger before hearing my side of the story or researching the incident,” Hernandez said.

Lyft released a report in 2021 documenting that over 4,000 drivers were assaulted, with 10 cases resulting in fatal casualties from 2017-2020. 

Hernandez is looking forward to a union as she is hoping for better pay according to California law, better health insurance, and companies to be held responsible for the employee’s safety. Fellow Uber/ Lyft driver Cardell Calloway shared the same sentiment toward safety concerns

“I quit doing rideshare because I felt like it was too dangerous, and while I do deliver, I wear a body cam because I was attacked by dogs and have hurt myself on customer’s properties,” Calloway said. He advocates for the formation of a union for gig workers as he has neither minimum wage pay nor health benefits. 

Calloway also points to Proposition 22 — which passed in 2020 — as another reason why it’s hard being a Lyft/Uber driver. 

“Since prop 22, every benefit promised to us they took back, and the reason why we signed in the first place is that the companies told us if it didn’t we would lose our flexibility as a driver,” he said.

 Proposition 22 misclassified gig drivers as independent contractors which helps Lyft and Uber exempt themselves from providing worker protections. They also offload costs such as car payments, gasoline, maintenance, insurance, and more onto workers.

Calloway also highlights how the flexible driving services provided aren’t that flexible. “ The flexibility isn’t there because you only work when the money is there, which is time sensitive. The only way you acquire true flexibility is when you become a top dasher, but you have to accept all the bad deliveries they offer before then.” Calloway, a dasher, said. “ I could be online for 12 hours and only make $10, which makes no sense.”

Gig workers are still fighting for the creation of a union to represent them, they have held protests and marches in various areas to gather support and spread the word about their unsafe work conditions. 

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