Dear editor of the New York Times

Oscar Levant

Well-Known Member
Dear Editor of the New York Times,

Regarding your Opinion column “Uber and Lyft Just Can’t Stop Flouting the Law”, I’m writing to address the point of view offered, and any point of view offered that is essentially in favor of AB5 in California. As a former driver for Uber for over 6 years, I quit, and the reason I quit was that my pay had been reduced to a point so low I deemed it no longer profitable. What I did was switch to Grubhub, and now my pay is profitable. AB5 will affect GrubHub as well. One could argue, well, as employee, we’ll get a union. However, do we need AB5 for this? Why not just make it legal for independent contractors to unionize? Uber is world wide and they can operate just fine without California, and they will most certainly do this in order to teach other legislatures a lesson that if you do this, i.e., force all of the things that Ab5 imposes on us, we will leave your state. Dear democrats of the California legislature, if Uber and Lyft pack up and leave putting 10s of thousands of drivers without incomes from these gig companies, will you be proud of yourselves, then?

Uber and Lyft are very popular in CA, people love the fact that they can get a cheap ride in a car that is more often in better shape than your average taxi.

Here’s the thing: drivers sign up with the gig companies mostly as a ‘side hustle’, because the freedom they allow drivers is the ‘benefit’ for which we gladly give up other benefits given to employees. It is the entire reason these ‘gigs’ are attractive. With AB5 in CA, they are taking that away from us. Understand that if AB5 forces Uber and Lyft to treat drivers as employees, noting that they are not operating at a profit currently, this will remove the incentive drivers have to work for these companies and Uber and Lyft will fold in California, i.e, they will cease operations.

While your article notes that Uber could still maintain driver flexibility under AB5. No, not entirely, and here’s why: Say I get a trip from the downtown San Diego to El Cajon. Well, I don’t live in El Cajon, I don’t feel comfortable working there, so if I drop someone off there, I disengage the app and return back to downtown, where my preferred method of driving, lots of short trips in a downtown environment, will continue. Do you honestly believe that if they are paying me by the hour they will allow me to turn the app off and go back downtown? NO, they will force me to work in El Cajon, where I don’t know the city, and because of it, I’m not as comfortable working there as I am downtown, where I know every nook and cranny of the streets. That is the ‘freedom’ being and independent contractor affords. It’s freedom of working WHERE I want to work, NOT just working when I want to work. Moreover, I can operate more than one app, I can switch on Lyft and Uber, and take the first ride that comes, and switch off the other when the ride comes. Being an employee will most certainly remove freedom of movement, working where I want to work, and remove ride optimization through operating more than one app. When it is slow, I can sit in my apartment and wait for a trip. Will being paid by the hour allow me to do this? NO! All of the arguments of freedom of flexibility fail to grasp the full extent of our freedoms as gig workers, which we drivers gladly trade loss of employee benefits for these freedoms. What about moms with kids, who can work their schedules around child rearing? AB5 is going to make their lives more difficult.

Most drivers I know are against AB5. If this affects Grubhub, and they fold, too, well, I’m 69 and these are the only jobs I can get. I make about $18 an hour on a bad day, and as much as $25 an hour on good day with Grubhub, and if GH doesn’t cease in CA, if they are forced to treat me as an employee, then I guarantee you that my pay will not be that high, as a trade off for benefits I do not need they will pay me less, probably about $15 an hour, which will mean that owning a $25,000 vehicle to drive for GH will no longer be profitable ( I have medicare, so I don’t need any employee health care, and younger folks can sign up with the ACA ). Whatever argument is being applied to rideshare companies does not apply to Grubhub because pay with Grubhub is more than adequate ( I hear the same from DoorDash drivers, that they are doing fine in the pay dept). Should we punish Grubhub and Doordash, as well? And what about independent contractors in trucking? I’ve been on some trucker’s forums, and they are very concerned about AB5.

I am a liberal and I voted for Gavin Newsom, but on this issue, I fear my liberal brethren, while hoping to do good, have not really understood why these companies are attractive to drivers. Moreover, many drivers operate more than one app simultaneously, taking the ride or delivery that comes up first, and switching off the others when a ride or delivery comes. In this fashion, a driver can optimize his or her income. As employees, operating more than one app will no longer be possible, working where we want to work will no longer be possible. Perhaps the only thing that can be maintained under AB5 as flexible scheduling, but I guarantee it won’t as flexible as it is now. If we are being paid by the hour, will no longer have the freedom to turn the app on and off at will without explanation, a freedom we do have currently, we will be required to guarantee X number of hours on X days and that may, or may not, concur with driver needs, as is the case with most employee jobs.

Moreover, all of this is moot because in CA, proposition 22 will be on the ballot, and because Uber and Lyft are so popular, it is expected to pass.

I still have the Uber app, and might return if they adjust pay upward, but until then, I’m driving for Grubhub. In any event, I will definitely vote in favor of Prop 22’s passage, because AB5 isn't the solution, the solution is simply to make it legal for independent contractors to unionize, and I urge all other persons in California to do the same. Dear democrats, I respect your desire to improve our lives, but you made a mistake on this one.

The better solution is to create a law that allows independent contractors to unionize. In this fashion, given that the entire reason for AB5 is to prevent exploitation, AB5 becomes a moot point. All gig workers really want are better pay and unemployment insurance. Uber could easily raise prices to accommodate this, and we know the market will bear the higher prices because taxis still operate at a much higher price level, noting that when Uber first started, their price model was much closer to what taxis were charging riders and riders bore the cost easily ( know, I started with Uber when they began, I made a lot more back then than I do now with Uber, and customers didn’t blink at the fares ).

Just make it legal to unionize, and let drivers, not the legislature, bargain with their respective companies.
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Well-Known Member
UBER somehow worked an exemption to get eats drivers covered under UBER's TNC insurance. Every other delvery service in CA is running without commercial insurance and just saying it's all on the drivers. Unless they are in a TCP rental that carries that kind of insurance to maintain their TCP license; I haven't heard a single CA delivery driver talk about how much they pay for their commercial insurance. So I assume they aren't doing it and are just hoping they dont get caught.