California vs. Uber et al.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A New Republic story wrongly extols a proposal in California to "protect" contractors for Uber, Lyft, and the like by harming the companies that offer them a simple and efficient way of finding customers.

Amusingly, the article all but admits the nature of this "protection" racket in a couple of sneering passages:

Soon to vanish from California? (Image by Robert Anasch, license.)
Like other gig economy companies, Uber's profit margins rely on skirting basic [sic] federal and state labor protections [sic] -- such as those denied [sic] [Konstantine] Anthony -- by classifying drivers as independent contractors instead of as employees. This business model has allowed gig-employment apps to rapidly expand over the past decade into multibillion-dollar global enterprises. Meanwhile, the workers whose undercompensated [according to whom? --ed] labor helped build those companies are not eligible to form unions. [bold added]
And then there's this:
[I]n June, the CEOs of Lyft and Uber wrote in a surprisingly transparent threat [(!) --ed] to Californians about the potential implications of the bill: "It's also no secret that a change to employment classification of ride-share drivers would pose a risk to our businesses." [bold added]
Unless this rag has some sort of woke policy of employing mental defectives as writers, the author clearly knows that the only people issuing a "threat" to Californians are the supporters of this bill: It will greatly increase the operating expenses of such companies, who may well need to stop operating -- at a loss -- in that state. That would end a great deal of convenience for the former customers and contract workers of the companies involved.

And unionization would greatly magnify these problems. Just ask Bernie Sanders.

Ludicrously, the article speaks of contractors being "forced" by these companies to do business a certain way, but this contention is easily seen through by facts from the article itself:
Under the new guidelines, the extent of a company's control over its workers will largely determine whether they qualify as employees. In 2017, in the midst of a divorce, Carmel Foster, a 53-year-old immigrant from South Africa, signed up for Handy -- a platform that connects consumers to providers of domestic services -- to work cleaning homes in San Francisco. The application appealed to her because of its flexible hours during a period of transition. But once she got started, the app controlled her life -- and her pocketbook.

"Once I accepted a client, I had no information about them. I wasn't allowed to have a relationship with them. I couldn't cancel it in the case of an emergency, and so my ratings would drop. Handy controlled my ability to get a raise," said Foster. She had to pay for all of her cleaning supplies, her transportation costs around the city, and the data plan for her phone. After being harassed by a client, and then getting into a car accident on her way between houses, and being forced to pay for medical bills out of pocket, Foster left Handy. "I realized I was paying to be on this app." [bold added]
Foster left Handy. Apparently Handy's "control" over her didn't include making her take any more mysterious customers, or assume any more obligations she would have problems fulfilling. She even got to say why without fear of reprisal. And so can anyone who doesn't think he is being compensated enough by any of these companies. Contrast this to the freedom of anyone needing a paycheck, but faced with a line of striking union thugs.

Many people willingly work for Uber, Lyft, and Handy with full knowledge of their levels of pay, any benefits, and their working expenses.

Surely they have their reasons, as evidenced by their choosing these gigs over other possible options. But the proponents of AB-5 imagine that they know better than they do, and are willing to run their sources of income into the ground to prove their point.

-- CAV

P.S. On our move out of Maryland, I had very limited time and used a service like Handy to hire someone to clean the house the day before the landlady was to inspect it. This highly-rated contractor tried to back out on essentially no notice. As a customer (and a party to that contract), I was glad I had the leverage of a negative review when I spoke to her: She cleaned the house.

It is revealing that stories like the one discussed above drop all context other than that of the side they "advocate" for. Contracts like this have costs and benefits for both sides, and it is wrong for a third party with a gun, like the government, to come in and alter the mutually agreed-upon terms -- either after the fact or preemptively, by ruling out entire categories of arrangements that violate the rights of no one.


Today: Changed third from last paragraph of post and added a PS. 


Jennifer Snow said...

I sometimes do freelancing online for a "gig economy" company called It's a super-easy way to make a little extra cash. You just sign in, accept a job for a set dollar amount, transcribe it by the deadline (based on the length of the material), and they send the money to your Paypal at the end of the week.

It's not effortless, sure, but if you have even a few extra hours in the evening you can easily make an extra hundred or so a week without much strain.

I don't think it'd make a real full-time support-the-family job, but that's not what they're offering. It's easy work that you do sitting in a chair in your own home, and an extra $300 a month can make the difference between financial straights and financial ease for a lot of people.

Gus Van Horn said...


This causes me to wonder if this measure happens to target only those jobs most people might be in danger of supporting themselves with -- as "controling" the freelancers' lives enough to be worth snuffing out/putting under state control.