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Gig Workers Rising Organizer on Prop 22: There’s nothing flexible about 'stripping away' worker rights

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The Prop 22 race continues to tighten ahead of the U.S. election. Cherri Murphy, Gig Workers Rising Organizer and Doug Mead, Uber Eats Delivery Driver join Yahoo Finance's Akiko Fujita and Zack Guzman to share their stance on the rising issue.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: On the ballot for Prop 22, the question about how those workers should be classified, whether they should be full-time employees or independent contractors. It's a proposition that has poured in a lot of money. We've seen more than $200 million raised. That is a record for any ballot measure over in California.

Let's bring in two drivers who are on different sides of the aisle on the issue here. Cherri Murphy is an Uber and Lyft driver. She is against Proposition 22. And we've also got Doug Mead, who is a delivery driver for Uber Eats and Postmates. Doug and Cherri, it's good to talk to both of you.

Doug, let me start with you, because there's a lot of questions about just how much these companies have poured into this ballot measure. More than $200 million raised to try and maintain this classification of workers as independent contractors. Why do you support that?

DOUG MEAD: Well, I support it because I will be able to keep my flexibility and independence. And the reason why I believe so much money has been poured into this is because there's a lot riding on this. It doesn't just affect us drivers on both the ride-sharing and food delivery side. It affects millions and millions of Californians across the state. Anybody who has accepted a ride share or who has accepted a food delivery, it affects all of them as well. So that, to me, is why so much has been put into this, because it affects a large percentage of Californians.

AKIKO FUJITA: Cherri, you've heard the argument before that this is not a platform that was meant for full-time employees. You've heard Uber and Lyft talk about how a majority of their drivers want that flexibility that will not come with the full-time classification. What's your response to that?

CHERRI MURPHY: My response to that is that a majority of the drivers do want safety protections when they're working. They want their wages. They want unemployment insurance in the middle of a pandemic. They want sick leave to prevent financial ruin, and, more importantly, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, not only for the drivers, but the passengers as well.

Look, we're up for a fight up and down this ballot, and that includes Uber and Lyft. And it's a ballot measure that was written by these multimillion-dollar corporations to deny workers a basic wage and labor protections and create special incentives for themselves. And that's why it's so vitally important that we vote now.

AKIKO FUJITA: And, Cherri, you've heard the executives come out who are in favor of Prop 22 say, look, you know, if we have to pay for these benefits in the way that California labor law requires us to do for full-time employees, that's going to mean significant hits of profit. You heard the CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, recently saying that all options would be on the table. Price increases would come up. Potentially Uber would have to reconsider its footprint in the state of California. How concerned are you as a driver though that they will in fact act on their word? I mean, that's got to mean that you won't get as many rides.

CHERRI MURPHY: What I know about Lyft and Uber's track history is that, you know, California is the fifth-largest economy, and it's unlikely that they would leave. And economists have spoken that, actually, they can be sustainable. What they could have done is spent this $200 million and given the drivers what they deserve, which is sick leave and unemployment insurance in the middle of a pandemic. And what they're doing is shirking their responsibility.

AKIKO FUJITA: Doug, you agree?

DOUG MEAD: No, I don't agree at all, at all. Because they're going to be forced to go to an employment model that would require scheduling. It would require scheduling in every area, in every corner of the state. In order to do that, they would have to hire on extra people to work in every region to manage the scheduling of the drivers for those particular areas.

Flexibility would be completely lost. And that's what drivers have been fighting for, is flexibility. I don't want to go back to a schedule. I've been there, done that, don't want a postcard. I like the flexibility. I like the fact that I can manage when I want to work and how I want to work. And that would be completely lost if there is a no vote.

AKIKO FUJITA: Let me ask you this, because there does seem like there's a divide here, at least in the drivers I've spoken to, those who are part-time drivers and those who are full-time, who really look at this issue differently. And, Doug, if I can take the question to you first, how have you been using these services to supplement your income? Is this a part-time gig that you use it for, or is this really your sole source of income?

DOUG MEAD: It started out as part-time when I first started doing it about a year ago. When the pandemic hit, I saw the need for the services back in March. So I've been working an average of 60 to 65 hours a week ever since. I do have some savings, because I was retired before I started working for Uber Eats and Postmates, but, certainly, I don't want to dig into that because that's for my retirement.

So as of right now, yes, this is a major source of my income. You know, I make an average of-- just yesterday, I worked less than eight hours and made $200. That's over $25 an hour. I'll lose that if there's a no vote. Why would I want to give that up?

AKIKO FUJITA: Cherri, I saw you shaking your head when Doug was speaking here. So let me ask you to give a response to what he said. And, also, if this proposition does pass, what does that mean for you as a driver? Have you thought about what you're likely to do beyond this?

CHERRI MURPHY: So, yes, I do want to speak to Doug's comment regarding flexibility. There's nothing in the law that is taking away drivers' flexibility. So I want to provide Doug some comfort.

Billion-dollar corporations can afford to provide workers with flexibility and benefits, like unemployment insurance and sick leave. And this is simply a threat from these companies, because they know that it will scare drivers. And there's nothing flexible about cutting wages and health care for workers. There's nothing flexible about weakening safety protections or stripping away workers' rights or putting drivers and riders at risk. What I know is that the UC Berkeley economics professor, in fact, has suggested that these companies will still need to offer drivers considerable scheduling flexibility.

As it relates to what happens if this bill passes, we know that the Constitution requires a supermajority, meaning 2/3 of a governing body, so, for example, if your listeners recall how difficult it was during the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Now imagine 7/8. I can't get 12 people to agree on a pizza.

So if this bill passes, this would nearly be impossible to provide any amendments or any remedies or protections for generations to come. In addition, it would preempt any ordinances, such as the emergency sick leave ordinances that we have in LA and San Francisco, San Diego, and Oakland. And this is where employees can take paid sick time off if they contract COVID-19 so that there is no fear of financial ruin or having workers come into their place of employment sick.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, no question there is a lot at stake, which is why we have seen this ballot measure get so much attention, not just in California, but outside of the state as well, because the indication is that other states could potentially follow. Doug Mead and Cherri Murphy, appreciate your time. Thanks so much for joining us.

CHERRI MURPHY: Thank you for having me.

DOUG MEAD: Thank you.