Opinion

Biden and Harris Want to Take This Disastrous California Policy Nationwide

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Posted: Aug 20, 2020 12:01 AM
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Biden and Harris Want to Take This Disastrous California Policy Nationwide

Source: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have slammed the independent contractor-based ridesharing model, in and of itself, as a form of worker exploitation.

Despite their assertion that the rideshare model is not in keeping with basic human rights, they have used Uber and Lyft at least 1,400 times over the course of their respective presidential campaigns, spending over $80,000.

Because of drivers' status as independent contractors, they are not entitled to certain benefits employees may receive from the same company. Rather than recognizing the consensual nature of these agreements, and how flexible schedules help drivers, Biden and Harris jump to the lofty argument that all workers are entitled to employee benefits. If workers are not given said benefits, it is because greedy corporations have wrung them of their surplus value (to take a note from Marx).

In holding these beliefs, both Biden and Harris have suggested rideshare drivers are underpaid, are not being adequately heard by Uber/Lyft, and that Uber/Lyft are exploiting their workers for more profits.

Most independent contractors, even outside of ridesharing, become an IC because they aren't bound to a company. They are free to work when, where, and how they want. Many app-based drivers partner simultaneously with the direct competitors of the platforms. It's a mistake to assume that an IC is incapable of getting a job in retail, in fast food, etc. where they would be entitled to benefits and a minimum wage. A far better assumption to make is that they specifically rejected those options and opted for IC work. This is why we’ve seen countless devastating testimonials from independent contractors whose careers have been destroyed by AB5 in California.

On March 7, Biden said he opposed allowing rideshare drivers to continue as independent contractors because "we can't let corporations undermine basic rights." If they truly believed this to be the case, they would hire drivers and campaign workers as salaried employees--after all, labor is labor.

Nonetheless, I would not participate in an institution that I believed to be exploitative at its core. The Biden and Harris campaigns couldn't say the same.  

Despite their assertion that the core rideshare model is exploitativetheir campaigns, collectively, have spent $80,593 on Uber/Lyft rides. According to FEC reports, Biden’s campaign has spent $11,695.17 on 400 Uber/Lyft transactions, while Harris’s campaign spent $68,898.32 on 1,056 Uber/Lyft transactions. This spending was done over the duration of their respective presidential campaigns.

Biden and Harris have endorsed the anti-independent contractor Assembly Bill 5 in California, as well as the federal PRO Act, which would impose AB5 insanity on a national level.

This legislation was primarily written to require Uber and Lyft to hire on their drivers as employees. Uber Technologies predicts that, because of this law, rideshare prices would need to increase 25 percent to 111 percent to cover the additional employee costs. This increase in prices would result in a reduction in trips of between 23 percent and 59 percent. “Assuming that the company would hire full-time workers, the number of active drivers in a three-month period would decline from 209,000 to 51,000, a 76 percent decrease.”

It is worth noting that 72 percent of app-based drivers in California would prefer to maintain independent contractor status. Additionally, by a 3-1 ratio, Americans consider rideshare app drivers to be independent contractors, as opposed to employees. Pew Research notes, in a large rideshare survey, that "the clear preference for a light regulatory approach among partisans in all camps is striking." On this issue, Americans are not on the same page as the Biden/Harris campaign.

Ken Wynn explained, “I have completed almost 9,000 rides as an independent contract driver through Uber. I am self-employed, the money from my rides that go to Uber are to cover insurance, dispatching services, etc. I choose when I want to work, Uber is not my employer. It has been a great part-time money maker for me and I am close to becoming debt free. When Uber & Lyft get slammed, you are attacking honest and hard working people.”

A man named Jonathan says, "I drive Uber while I’m not in the classroom or university library. I drive when I can and when I want. AB 5 will rob my independence. AB 5 will take my income away. It will make me more dependent on student loans."

At a time when households need to juggle taking care of their families, schooling, and health, independent contracting is more important now than it has ever been. Additionally, with the country's gaze towards making a more just society for people of color, Uber and Lyft have been an incredible source of transportation for once underserved communities. By a 5:1 ratio, residents of majority-minority neighborhoods say rideshare services like Uber and Lyft “serve neighborhoods taxis won’t visit" according to a landmark Pew Research Center survey.

A survey done by Edelman Intelligence reported that, without the extra income, rideshare and food delivery app drivers in California wouldn’t be able to put money away for a rainy day (76 percent), provide for themselves and their family (73 percent), pay their bills (73 percent), put food on the table (65 percent), and pay rent/mortgage (67 percent).

Recently, a San Francisco judge ruled that Uber and Lyft must abide by AB5 and classify their drivers as employees. On August 12th, Uber announced that it would likely shut down for [at least] several months if a court does not overturn the ruling, leaving over 100,000 drivers without essential income.

Biden and Harris use Uber, Lyft, and their drivers at their convenience in order to gain ground support for their campaign. Meanwhile, their campaign is vowing support of laws that can and will leave drivers without enough money to pay for food, rent, and bills.

Before striking down this hypocrisy as simple “participation in society,” it’s important to remember that there are a plethora of other transportation options available to these campaigns. Taxis, public transportation, carpooling with volunteers/staff with cars, etc. are available options for those who assert rideshare services’ business model is inherently a violation of humans’ “basic rights.” The fact that Biden and Harris support policies that could eradicate the services altogether (like they may in California) prove that they don’t actually see these services as essential. If a preening politician asserts that something is not in keeping with basic human rights, and is not essential, why use it?