As It Happens·Q&A

'I love the flexibility,' says California Lyft worker who fought to pass Prop 22

The California Lyft driver known as "MomLyft" says she's glad she gets to keep being a contractor instead of an employee.

The ballot measures allows Lyft and Uber to classify their drivers as contractors instead of employees

Jan Krueger, a 62-year-old retiree in Sacramento who drives for Lyft, is pro-Prop 22. (Submitted by Jan Krueger)

The California Lyft driver known as "MomLyft" says she's glad she gets to keep driving as an independent contractor instead of as an employee.

Californians on Tuesday passed Proposition 22 to allow companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their drivers as independent contractors.

The measure, which passed with 58 per cent, was a strong rebuke to AB 5, a state bill that forced companies to classify contractors as employees who are entitled to benefits and protections including minimum wage, overtime, paid sick leave and unemployment insurance.

Prop 22, however, does provide drivers with some benefits, including minimum pay rates, health-care subsidies and accident insurance.

Some drivers fought the ballot measure, going up against big companies such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates, which collectively spent more than $205 million US campaigning for it to pass. 

But Jan Krueger, a 62-year-old retiree in Sacramento, is glad it passed. Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Jen, I know you're happy about Proposition 22. Can you explain why?

I have been a part-time Lyft driver in Sacramento for seven years. And up until June 30th, I had a full-time job, but I recently retired. So prior to June, I did it on the weekends and after work. And now that I'm retired, the last thing I want is an employer. So I still just want to do it as a gig, because I love the flexibility of just logging in and out whenever I want.

So what do you get? What changes for you with Prop 22?

The main thing we get to keep is our flexibility. That's really what we were after.

And then it also provides a minimum earnings guarantee of 120 per cent of minimum wage. And that's the base. There's no ceiling.

It does also provide some benefits. Once you work a certain amount of hours, like starting at 15 hours, you get a partial benefits stipend, and then at 25 hours, you get the full benefits stipend.

I understand you're known in Sacramento as "MomLyft."

Yes, I am. I personalized my license plate. And after several years, I then got it tattooed on my shoulder, and my social media is Mom Lyft. It's become pretty well known. All the young kids were doing "PartyLyfts" and "KaraokeLyfts." But I kind of just like taking care of people, so I did MomLyft. And people are realizing that's probably the best idea. When you are being picked up by a stranger, you want to feel comfortable. So nothing better than MomLyft.

It's been a lot of fun. I really, really enjoy this gig. It's just been sort of life-changing for me, meeting people and, you know, just having the freedom of doing it whenever I want. I just love it.

Jan Krueger, a retiree in Sacramento who drives for Lyft, shows off her tattoo. (Submitted by Jan Krueger)

You're sort of the ideal person for this kind of a job, for this gig economy. It's like, you don't need to be doing it, you enjoy doing it, you have health benefits from your previous job, and you're happy to do it part-time. What about those who were opposed to this proposition because, basically, they depend on this income for feeding their families, for surviving. Can you understand that this is not working for them?

I have heard that. And, you know, I definitely wouldn't want to encourage anybody to do this for a long-term, full-time gig — just because one accident, and you're out of a job. The risk level is pretty darn high, and I don't think it's healthy to sit in your car for eight hours a day for five, maybe seven days a week.

But for those that do it full time, I still say that Prop 22 is going to offer better wages and benefits than we would have gotten under AB 5.

They talk about, well, there's no sick leave days. We set our own schedule. You know, that's part of what the gig economy is, is being able to do it whenever you want. So for us, we've never looked at that as being something as a requirement, with the flexibility far outweighing the benefits of having a [regular] job.

You're in Sacramento. Others are living in cities, I guess probably L.A. and other places where it's highly competitive. How do you think that Proposition 22 is going to work, or perhaps not work, for those people?

I think in the larger cities like Los Angeles, although there are lots more drivers, there's lots and lots more rides. Sacramento isn't one of their biggest markets snd, you know, I really get back-to-back rides generally when I'm logged in. It's definitely busy for me here.

I still say, you know, this is a gig. You can sign up and you can stop doing it any time you want. That's the flexibility that it allows. And that's why there's just hundreds of thousands of people choosing this income option, whether it's just to fill in gaps or some people do ... it full time. And they're doing it full time because they're making really good money. They're not making minimum wage.

Well, not according to a number of people who have commented on this. They are barely making a living on this. And one thing goes wrong, and they have a lot of trouble paying their bills. Plus, a very important thing in your country, of course, [is that] your health insurance is tied to your work, right? And so a lot of these people don't have health care. And so what they're getting from this Proposition 22 is not enough to actually give them a full benefit, is it?

I think it is. After 25 hours, they will get a stipend to buy what we call our Covered California plan.

I'll just point out that apparently — you can correct me if I'm wrong — is that stipend is $1.20 an hour, which is well below what you would be getting in another job, which is more like $4 to $6 per hour. So it is subpar as far as being able to pay for health care, it seems.

But the other thing I would want to point out is without Prop 22, Lyft and Uber were threatening to shut down in California. And even if they weren't going to shut down in the big cities where they can guarantee business, they were definitely going to reduce their drivers.

And so the people that were advocating against Prop 22, I feel like they were advocating themselves out of a job, because there was absolutely no guarantee that they were going to be one of the drivers allowed to continue on. And even if they were, there was no guarantee that they were going to be allowed 40 hours.

As you know, Proposition 22 was a vote that went to the general population in California to determine this, not exclusively to the drivers for ... Uber and Lyft and other companies. And so those companies like Uber and Lyft spent $200 million to campaign in California to get this proposition passed. Do you think that was reasonable?

I'm thankful they have the resources to fight, because every other independent contractor affected by AB 5, who have been decimated, their livelihoods have just been stopped, they were behind Prop 22. Because they knew if we could get an exemption from AB 5, then it would prove to the legislature that AB 5 as the worst written bill. It needs to be repealed in its entirety so that independent contractors can go back to their livelihoods that they enjoyed.

So I'm upset that we even have to have this conversation, that Prop 22 had to exist. I'm thankful that they had the resources to fight it. The citizens have spoken. They agree we should remain independent, and we will move forward.


Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

 

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