In a new op-ed for CalMatters, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski tells the story of Karim Bayumi, a rideshare driver from Anaheim who will strike with thousands of other drivers on May 8 in California and around the globe.
Like so many California families, Karim Bayumi of Anaheim, his wife and two young children are doing everything they can to scrape by.
Bayumi drives for a large rideshare company as his primary source of income. On March 11, Bayumi’s rate was cut from 80 cents a mile to 60 cents a mile, just barely above the government mileage reimbursement rate. No warning. No explanation. In an instant, a chunk of his income just disappeared.
Uber, Lyft and other app-based employers call drivers like Bayumi “independent contractors,” meaning, in theory, Bayumi is his own boss. But he has no ability to set his own rates, and the companies have the power to deactivate him at any time through no fault of his own.
The companies even mandate drivers take a certain number of rides per week if they want to earn the best possible rate, meaning his flexibility to work when he wants is extremely limited.
Bayumi works in what’s been called the gig economy. But like so many others, for him, this isn’t a gig. It’s his job. And he’s not even making minimum wage. He doesn’t have unemployment insurance. There’s no workers’ compensation if he’s injured. No overtime if he puts in extra-long days.
“We’re labeled independent contractors but they don’t treat us as independent,” Bayumi says.
Bayumi’s story is all too familiar. Because he’s misclassified as an independent contractor, Bayumi doesn’t have most protections afforded to other workers. As a result, he’s living on the edge every single day.
The Labor Federation is strongly supporting AB 5, a bill by Lorena Gonzalez to codify last year’s Dynamex ruling into law. The measure would curb illegal misclassification of workers, halting a dangerous trend driven by greedy corporations that’s undermining our economy.
And AB 5 would be life-changing for workers like Bayumi. We’re not just talking about gig workers. Misclassification happens in many low-wage industries. Construction. Service. Truck driving. And many more types of workers are affected.
The bill, currently being considered by the California Legislature, could bring hundreds of thousands of workers into employee status, and along with it, afford basic protections against a host of abuses.
The #StrikeUberLyft movement, sparked by grassroots groups like Rideshare United LA and Gig Workers Rising, is a powerful show of solidarity to demand better treatment for those in the on-demand economy, including employee rights afforded by AB 5. On Wednesday, show your support for Bayumi and all the other drivers on strike by not using rideshare services that day.
“We’re going on strike because we’re angry and frustrated. There have to be some standards in the rideshare industry. These companies do whatever they want. They don’t answer to anyone. We’re just trying to make a living.”