Last month, California legislators approved the California Assembly Bill, otherwise known as AB 5. The bill, according to the legislators, would require companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees, and eventually, provide their drivers basic worker protections like the minimum wage, paid sick days, and health insurance benefits.
And that was just the beginning.
Last August, the City Council passed a law requiring the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to set a minimum wage for drivers with app-based taxi services like Uber and Lyft. The minimum, as stated by the rule, is $17.22 an hour after expenses.
However, that doesn’t mean things are going pretty well.
Lyft attempted to prevent the minimum wage from going into effect by filing a lawsuit against the TLC in January. When a state Supreme Court judge dismissed the suit in May, both companies found another way to escape the new requirements.
Both companies tweaked their algorithms to avoid having to pay that much. According to reports, they have narrowed when and where drivers can sign in to their apps to work.
“It’s never been worse,” says Uber driver Tina Raveneau, claiming that she’s now making less money despite the new law. Moreover, the 39-year-old single mother reveals that she can only get onto the Lyft app during the morning rush hour, but not during the time she is available.
She tried switching to Uber, but there was no difference. Uber began shooing drivers off the app if they don’t get to a “high-demand zone” within 30 minutes of dropping off a fare – without even telling the affected drivers.
“I would think that I was working, but I wouldn’t really be working,” Ms. Raveneau said. With no ride alerts coming into her phone, it didn’t take her long to catch on to what was happening.
According to the new law, companies are required to make up the difference if drivers fail to earn a base pay of $17.22 an hour after expenses. But Uber doesn’t seem too fond of that idea.
After learning about Uber exploiting the system, The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) decided to take action. The IDG is calling for the City Council to step in and stop Uber and Lyft from doing so.
Drivers like Raveneau say they will keep fighting until they are paid a wage they can live on. “We’re the drivers who move New York,” she says. “We should come first.”