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Drivers tell us that they don’t want to be employees

Drivers tell us that they don’t want to be employees

opinion

Tony West

Opinion contributor

Published 6:16 PM EDT Sep 16, 2019

Work is changing. Unlike a generation ago, typical workers will have 12 employers in their lifetime. Many choose independent work because it’s flexible: You decide when, where and for whom you work.

Indeed, most rideshare drivers spend fewer than 20 hours per week driving. But for all its virtues, independent work poses serious challenges when it comes to the minimum wage guarantees, benefits and legal protections that many full-time workers find in traditional employment.

Uber agrees that all workers must be protected. That’s why for nearly a year, we have been asking drivers, California policymakers and labor leaders to consider new regulations to significantly improve the quality, security and dignity of independent work.

The current employment framework is nearly 100 years old, not designed for how many work today. While we must retain principles that empower and protect workers, we must also update that legal framework to include independent workers who choose the innovation economy.

To do that, we’ve proposed a progressive approach that ensures independent drivers have the security typically associated with employment and the flexibility they desire, including:

OUR VIEW: California, Uber and Lyft can find a way to compromise on drivers’ benefits

►A guaranteed minimum earnings standard (including expenses) substantially above local minimum wage. This is a floor, not a ceiling, so drivers can always earn more.

►Driver access to benefits like paid sick leave and protection if injured on the job.

►Protection against discrimination and harassment.

►For the first time, sectoral bargaining, giving drivers the right to organize and bargain over decisions impacting their livelihoods.

Importantly, these changes would allow drivers to retain the control and flexibility they currently enjoy without forcing them into employment status — and drivers tell us through focus groups and surveys they don’t want to be employees.

The status quo is not good enough. Tens of millions of people choose digital platforms like ours for independent work. We have both a responsibility and a historic opportunity to improve the quality of that work for those who choose it.

Tony West is Uber’s chief legal officer.

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