Local labor unions and politicians joined a rally Sunday afternoon organized by the campaign against Proposition 22, the ballot measure that seeks to override Assembly Bill 5 and label app-based drivers as independent contractors.
The campaign in favor of Proposition 22 has raised almost $200 million almost exclusively from app-based companies. Its top three contributors — Uber Technologies, Lyft and DoorDash — each spent at least $48 million.
The campaign against the measure has raised almost $20 million from a wider array of contributors.
Uber and Lyft driver Daniel Russell expressed his frustration with the companies.
“I have to work 60 and 70 hour weeks to make ends meet. It used to not be so bad when I first started driving,” he said.
“But the problem is these companies constantly change their contracts on us on a whim. They offer us these new contracts when we’re getting ready to sign in for a shift in the driver’s seat of the car, and you have to review 25 pages of legal mumbo jumbo that changes our rights and changes our compensation,” he said.
He has driven over 20,000 rides between Uber and Lyft and goes through three sets of brakes and tires a year. The companies do a safety check on his car once a year.
“These companies are not only a danger to public safety, but they also steal from the public. They save billions of dollars on payroll taxes by not claiming us as employees,” he said. “When the pandemic hit, the taxpayer had to pick up the bill when we lost our jobs.”
He worries about what other industries will follow if the measure passes. All the speakers seemed to worry about what other services will label workers as independent contractors.
“What industry next will say if we spend $200 million, we can write our own special exclusion to labor laws too?” said Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director at Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy.
“The only reason that people were confused is because these app companies spent $200 million spamming us with advertisements to convince us that red is blue, up is down and taking away rights from workers is good for workers,” he said.
An August 2020 report by Ken Jacobs and Michael Reich of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UC Berkeley concluded that drivers’ compensation, if Proposition 22 passes, is approximately $5.64. The proposition doesn’t pay drivers for the time spent waiting for customers and underestimates driving expenses.
“[The Yes On 22 campaign] has been disingenuous in terms of their advertising. Because they’ve been saying that it’ll help drivers, but in reality, it leaves them with no unemployment insurance, no workers compensation,” said Jonathan Underland, spokesman for the No On 22 campaign.
He said the pandemic has revealed the need for employee benefits.
“If you care about the workers that work in the gig economy, then you will vote no on Prop 22,” Santa Barbara County supervisor Das Williams said. “This is fundamentally about whether labor rights are better for them or not.”
He said his wife’s cousin is an app-based driver struggling to pay rent with his income, whereas he previously could raise a family with his income.
Santa Barbara City Councilmember Meagan Harmon also had a personal connection to the issue. She said she once relied on the gig economy to make a living in the recession that hit in 2008.
“I had to change my expectations for my future. I had to lower my standards for basic workplace protection, what it had always meant to me to be an employee went right out the window. And don’t even get me started on the idea of financial security,” she said.
She described Proposition 22 as “exploitive.”
Other presenters were: Steve Bennett, Ventura County supervisor and assembly candidate; Gregg Hart, Santa Barbara County supervisor; Sheila Kulkarni, recording secretary of the UAW 2865 Bargaining Unit at UCSB; Daraka Larimore-Hall, vice chair of the California Democratic Party; and driver Oscar Rodriguez.
The crowd was mostly presenters and local politicians, though nearby citizens ventured to De La Guerra Plaza to listen. People clapped and cheered at poignant lines delivered by the speakers, as though they related even though they don’t serve as an app-based driver.