Labor fights to protect gig workers
By Sheri Williams
Hundreds of union members rallied at the state Capitol on July 10 to urge legislators to support AB 5, a bill crucial to the future of California’s working families.
The measure would stop companies from misclassifying workers as contractors to avoid paying fair wages and benefits. Instead, companies would be forced to follow fair rules when deciding the proper classification for employees, a basic standard that Labor has fought hard to win.
“Millions of workers are living a life of insecurity because corporations refuse to abide by the law and offer the basic protections that come with being recognized as an employee,” said Art Pulaski, head of the California Labor Federation.
Pulaski added that AB 5 is “essential to rebuilding California’s middle class.”
Assembly Bill 5 would codify into law a California Supreme Court ruling known as Dynamex. That landmark win for Labor forbids companies such as Uber and Lyft from exploiting workers by labeling them as contractors.
Worker advocates have joined with Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher to enshrine the Dynamex ruling into state law and close loopholes that allow some big corporations to continue cheating. The bill, AB 5, clarifies the decision and protects both employees and those who are actually independent contractors.
Companies that rely on abusing so-called “gig-labor” have argued that their model benefits workers by giving them flexibility. Labor is fighting back against that false “Big Lie,” to protect the future of work in California.
“Gig companies like Uber, Lyft and Doordash, desperate to avoid providing basic protections and decent pay to drivers, are engaged in an all-out disinformation campaign to defend their illegal business models and kill legislation that would protect workers,” said the California Labor Federation. “We can’t possibly provide flexibility and treat our workers with dignity and respect, they say. Nonsense. The notion that flexibility is inconsistent with employee status is what we’ll call The Big Lie. The Big Lie offers gig companies cover to continue exploiting their drivers by paying them less than minimum wage, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination and offering no protections if they are injured on the job or unemployment insurance if they are laid off. That’s because, according the Big Lie, these self-proclaimed masters of innovation can’t figure out how to offer flexibility and provide basic protections to drivers at the same time.”
The misclassification of workers presents more dangers than just unfair pay. Those who are forced to unfairly be labeled as contractors lose overtime, benefits and workers’ compensation as well, creating economic dangers if they are injured at work or need medical care.
The bill recently passed the Assembly, and is now headed to the Senate where it will likely be debated in coming weeks.
After a massive rally in front of the Capitol, teams of union members hit the hallways to speak with individual members. In dozens of meetings with Senators, union sisters and brothers advocated for fair wages and working conditions for all Californians.
The Dynamex decision uses a three-part test to determine when workers should be classified as an employee. To be a contractor, a person must not do their job under the direction or control of the employer, can’t do work central to the companies business and have their own independent business in the field they are working.