Solidarity Summer: Drivers Meet to Fight Ballot Measure

On Tuesday, more than 200 Mobile Workers Alliance Drivers came together for a virtual meeting to plan how we’re going to fight back against the anti-driver ballot initiative being pushed by Uber, Lyft and Doordash.

Check out the full recap below and watch the condensed meeting video on YouTube.

We kicked the meeting off with a moment of silence in honor of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality, before moving into an intro by MWA organizer Felipe, who explained the current state of play for drivers in LA. He highlighted a few important things:

  • Uber, Lyft and Doordash are going hard for their $110 million anti-driver ballot measure and are already spending millions on advertising.
  • The state of CA is suing Uber and Lyft for violating AB5 and misclassifying drivers
  • June 25th is the deadline for the companies to either pull or modify the ballot measure
  • Mobile Workers Alliance is joining with other driver groups across the state to stage weekly actions in the run up to the 25th to put maximum pressure on the companies

Felipe was followed by MWA organizer Brian, who gave us a rundown of our victories over the past 18 months. You can check out a (non-comprehensive) timeline of those wins at the Stronger Together page or check out Brian’s rundown in this video.

Driver James was up next, who provided a comprehensive rundown of the anti-driver ballot initiative that the companies are sinking millions of dollars into.

“This ballot measure that they’re pushing, which they call the “Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act” is a $110 million dollar middle finger to drivers,” James said. “They are saying to us that they would rather spend over $100 million dollars to rewrite the rules than to give us what we’ve earned.”

James gave us a quick explanation of what a ballot measure is and how it works. The TLDR is that a ballot measure is a piece of legislation that the citizens of California vote on directly on Election Day, bypassing the state legislature and the governor altogether. In order for an initiative to qualify for the ballot, they have to collect a certain number of signatures from registered voters in CA.

The ballot initiative system is great for companies like Uber and Lyft because they can just hire people to collect signatures to get something on the ballot, then flood the state with advertising telling people to vote for their law.

This is obviously not so great for drivers like us who don’t have $110 million to spend on ads. That’s why it’s essential that we stick together and fight back with people power.

James then broke down exactly why this ballot initiative is such a crummy deal for drivers.

  1. The “wage guarantee” in the initiative only applies between when we accept and drop off a ride and doesn’t include expenses and wear and tear. UC-Berkeley crunched the numbers and determined that it would allow the companies to pay us as little as $5.64 an hour.
  2. The proposed “health insurance” is actually a stipend for 82% of a Covered CA Bronze Plan. A bronze plan covers just 60% of medical expenses and includes a $12,000 deductible for a family. A stipend of 82% of a plan that covers 60% of your medical expenses and that you have to shop around for yourself is far cry from what drivers need.
  3. The initiative removes the ability for local governments to regulate these companies. So if cities wanted to create a higher wage or sick days or any other benefit for drivers, they wouldn’t be able to.

James stressed that we can’t be tricked by comparing the ballot initiative proposals with the way things currently are. We need to compare them to the full employee status that we’re entitled to. 

Check out James’ full remarks in the video below.

Next, MWA driver Mike provided us with an update on the California attorney general’s lawsuit against the companies over misclassification.

“This landmark lawsuit seeks to enforce everything we won through AB 5, and to shut down the companies’ misclassification schemes once and for all,” Mike said. “Their continued law breaking – their refusal to comply with AB 5 – could cost these companies millions in fines.”

Mike was followed by driver Jerome, who explained all the work that MWA leaders have been doing behind the scenes to take on the gig giants where it really hurts – their wallets.

For months, we’ve been reaching out to shareholders, government officials and investors to raise awareness of how Uber and Lyft treat their drivers and how their business model not only robs us, but also the public.

“I personally spoke to the board members of two of the largest retirement funds in the country – the California Public Employees Retirement System, and the New York State Common Fund,” Jerome said. “In both conversations, I was able to outline my experiences working full-time for Lyft, and the shared issues all of us face working for these billion-dollar Silicon Valley giants. This comprehensive approach – engaging drivers, investors, shareholders, and the broader public – is key to our success moving forward, and his been a cornerstone of our organizing from the beginning.”

Finally, driver Luz closed the meeting with a call to action, revealing our plans for weekly actions during Solidarity Summer. We’re not going to share those here because we don’t need the bosses to know when we’re coming, but if you want to get involved in the fight, please fill out a contact form and we’ll be in touch!

As Luz said, “As we continue to organize and fight for a better future for all drivers I want to remind us that it will not be easy, and it will not happen overnight. We will not be able to win if we only depend on politicians to help us. Victory will come when WE organize. When WE fight back. When WE build a union that is so powerful that Uber and Lyft will have NO CHOICE but to sit at the table with drivers to negotiate OUR working conditions. I look forward to that day and to seeing you all tomorrow!”