Researchers see driver pay floor of $ 4.82 under poll question
Alleging “loopholes” in a proposed ballot question, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley estimated Wednesday that Uber and Lyft drivers would be guaranteed less than 40% of the Massachusetts minimum wage if the proposal became law.
The analysis drew criticism from the industry-backed group supporting the initiative, which argued the report attempted to “silence the voices of workers and voters in Massachusetts.”
A worker who drives 15 hours a week for businesses could legally earn the equivalent of $ 4.82 an hour after factoring in unpaid idle time, extra costs and unreimbursed mileage, two concluded. academics in their report. For those who drive 40 hours per week and are entitled to a health care allowance – according to the authors of one group, this is a “minority” of drivers – the estimate comes to an equivalent. wages of $ 6.74 per hour.
The authors of the research said the proposed new law would allow app-based companies to pay drivers – who would be declared permanently independent contractors, not employees – well below the minimum hourly wage of $ 15 that will be in effect. in force in 2023.
“They claim to create a minimum wage for drivers,” Ken Jacobs, president of the UC Berkeley Labor Center, said in an interview. “That’s how they talk about it and that’s what they claim this law does. What we’ve found is that they create a wage below the minimum.”
Jacobs and his co-author, Michael Reich, produced a similar analysis in November 2019 predicting how California’s Proposition 22 would affect the guaranteed income of drivers in California.
The authors conducted their analysis of the Massachusetts ballot issue at the behest of groups fighting the proposal, and no payment or funding was involved, Jacobs said.
“They claim to create a minimum wage for drivers. That’s how they talk about it and that’s what they claim this law does. What we’ve found is that they create a lower wage. at least.”
“This is another ridiculous attempt to silence the voices of workers and voters in Massachusetts,” said Conor Yunits, spokesperson for the Coalition for Independent Work, which is working to get the vote through. The reality is that this voting measure is supported by drivers with a 7: 1 margin. We remain focused on what matters: raising the voice of drivers and finding a solution that protects their flexibility while extending benefits and benefits. protections. “
Yunits singled out Harvard business school report published last week analyze DoorDash data. This report found that eliminating the ability for drivers to set their own schedules would have the same impact as reducing their weekly earnings by more than 5% for an average driver or up to 17% for a top driver. .
UC Berkeley report and company reviews – including an Uber rebuttal written two years ago to the California study – target a point at the heart of the poll question: whether drivers should be paid for the time they are online and connected to the app, but not for transporting someone or traveling to take a passenger.
Massachusetts’ proposed ballot question would guarantee drivers a “floor income” equal to 120% of the state’s minimum hourly wage plus 26 cents per mile, but both would only apply to “commitment time.” , defined as the interval between when a driver accepts a customer’s request and when a driver responds to that request.
The UC Berkeley authors estimated that about a third of drivers’ ‘actual working time’ is between trips or when returning from a stop in a more remote area, none of which would count for the floor. revenues. Jacobs said the data comes from an analysis done by a consulting firm for Uber and Lyft.
“Not paying for that time would be the equivalent of a fast food restaurant or retail store paying the cashier only when a customer is at the counter,” wrote Jacobs and Reich. “We have labor and employment laws precisely to protect workers from this type of exploitation.”
After the duo made a similar point in their California analysis, Uber acknowledged that drivers and couriers “spend a significant portion of their time on the available but engaged app.” However, a business economist argued that the analogy with retail workers is insufficient due to the different nature of app-based work.
“A cashier can’t, for example, show up for work when and where he wants,” Uber economist Alison Stein wrote in November 2019. “They can’t choose to ignore certain customers or make a mistake. unexpected break. And they certainly cannot alternate services. For the cashier analogy to be valid, and for this time to be reasonably compensable, the time spent on the app should be subject to monitoring and Uber control, an outcome we believe to be highly undesirable from a driver’s or courier’s perspective. “
The researchers estimated that defining hiring time would reduce the guaranteed minimum wage for drivers by about a third.
Other “loopholes” they described included reimbursing drivers for mileage and vehicle maintenance below the standard IRS rate, drivers’ costs for health care and charges. social security and unpaid benefits.
The report only offers estimates for Uber and Lyft drivers in Massachusetts and not for drivers on app-based delivery platforms like DoorDash or Grubhub. Jacobs said researchers haven’t seen “good data” showing how much idle time these delivery drivers experience while online.
Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash together spent more than $ 200 million to successfully defend the Prop 22 passage through California.
These three and Instacart are now funding the Coalition for Independent Work, which pursues both the ballot issue in Massachusetts and separate legislation on Beacon Hill which would make certain benefits available to drivers and declare them independent contractors under state law.
Mike Firestone, director of the Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights opposing the ballot issue, said his group would call on business executives to testify at a legislative hearing next week on the bill .
“Uber and other big tech companies should contribute to Social Security, pay their taxes, and pay their workers fairly, like every other business in Massachusetts,” Firestone said. “We call on the CEOs of Big Tech behind this lobbying campaign to answer serious questions from the UC Berkeley report and to testify at the hearing next week on why $ 4.82 / time and no social security is the right choice for Massachusetts. “