SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Ride-sharing companies on Friday were continuing to push California legislators to come up with a new classification for workers that falls somewhere between “company employee” and “independent contractor.”

“What we are focused on is creating a new model that recognizes that labor laws were written decades ago when
gig economy type work like driving with Lyft didn’t exist,” said Adrian Durbin, Communications Director for Lyft.

Until now, ride-sharing companies have classified their drivers as “independent contractors” — also known as gig workers — who get paid by the job but don’t get company benefits.

But AB 5 — a bill working its way through Sacramento — could force ride-share companies to re-classify drivers as company employees, and give them full benefits and protections.

“Unfortunately, the business model of some of these companies is basically to exploit workers,” said Ben Field, Director of the South Bay Labor Council.

AB 5 is backed by labor groups who want to unionize gig workers.

“If AB 5 passed, they’ll benefit as they’ll get overtime pay for extra hours, they’ll get minimum wage, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, all of those basic protections that the law is supposed to provide,” Field said.

With the deadline for passing AB 5 just weeks away, ride-sharing companies are focused on an alternative bill that would create a new hybrid classification for drivers.

“Let’s update those laws and create a new model that protects driver’s flexibility andthe ability to work whenever and wherever they want,” Durbin said.

The companies would allow a wage floor of 21 dollars an hour, injury protection and paid time off.

But if a deal in Sacramento can’t be struck, the companies say they’ll take it to the voters.

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have announced they will pay 30 million each to fund an initiative campaign for the California ballot that would create the new gig worker category.

“The ballot initiative is not our first choice, but we have done research that shows there is strong and broad support,” Durbin said.

So it could be that in 2020, California voters will decide if drivers should be employees, contractors, or something in between.

“I’m find with them staying contractors, I’m a contractor myself,” said Uber and Lyft rider Jeff Poppy of Seattle.

But others disagree.

“To me it seems like a no brainer.  If they are going to be profiting off of these people, they should also give them all of the benefits that come with being an employee of a company,” said  Fahad Manzur of San Jose.

There’s just two weeks left in this legislative session to get things done. Uber is reportedly already making plans to begin collecting signatures to put this on the 2020 ballot.

With $90 million so far, the companies would be able to mount a powerful campaign. Labor says it will fight any such initiative.

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