It’s wrong to think that Uber and Lyft, which are behind Proposition 22, value public interest over shareholders’ profits. (Shutterstock photo)

It’s wrong to think that Uber and Lyft, which are behind Proposition 22, value public interest over shareholders’ profits. (Shutterstock photo)

When did we start trusting corporations to draft laws?

Prop. 22 ads do not accurately portray the lives of full-time ride-hail drivers

http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/i-drive-sf/

You can create a lot of influence with $200 million. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my social media feeds and websites are completely inundated with Yes on Proposition 22 ads these days. They show up during commercial breaks. I’ve received text messages. I’ve even seen them on the same webpage as this column.

The promotional content usually portrays a typical driver as someone who just wants the flexibility to earn a few extra bucks when not at their regular job, often to help with medical expenses, tuition or just a hard-earned vacation. This is how Uber and Lyft have always portrayed their drivers in the media.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, they represent them to customers as a loyal and reliable source of transportation. Superior to not just taxis but every other form of public transit.

Have you ever seen those videos where passengers attack Uber/Lyft drivers for enforcing the rules? The seething rider will invoke the name of the company, then threaten to report them to their superiors. Yeah right, the driver will laugh, pointing out, “I’ve got it all on video!”

Experienced drivers, like those who usually install video cameras in their vehicles, know their role with the company…

Uber and Lyft would be nothing without full time drivers. Using casual drivers to represent your workforce is a ruse. They only make up a small percentage of drivers. Uber and Lyft cannot provide instant rides 24/7 without the efforts of full-time drivers: the ones who work 13-hour shifts, five to seven days a week. The ones who sleep in their cars in Safeway parking lots. The ones who are generally opposed to Prop. 22 and want to be employees.

Cause they know what they are in the Uber/Lyft model…

For years, Uber and Lyft ran massive campaigns to get drivers on the road – all the while insisting to the media they were keeping cars OFF the road. And I’m sure we’ve all abandoned that silly notion by now that surge pricing would somehow compel your casual driver to stop what they’re doing, jump in their car and race out into the fray to become a taxi driver. Uber and Lyft have always presented a false narrative of their business model.

Of course, the media also found drivers who support Prop. 22. They even found some true believers: those who talk about the satisfaction of helping people get from point A to point B. They always have some heartwarming story about how they contributed to an altruistic achievement, like delivering pastries to frontline workers.

For these kinds of drivers, Assembly Bill 5 is a deathblow… Or the ultimate challenge to their benevolence.

Regardless, Prop. 22 isn’t about revoking AB5. This isn’t about whether the government should be allowed to force workers into accepting their definition of what a worker should be. That’s a fight for another day.

Prop. 22 is about one thing only: corporate control.

Since when do we trust corporations to serve the best interests of their workers? Some may display a public sense of goodwill, but the vast majority are beholden only to their stockholders. And tech corporations are just as greedy, deceitful and heartless as any other industry.

Why is the $2,500 MacBook Pro I bought in 2012 unusable eight years later? My 12-year-old TV still works fine. My stereo is older than me. Hell, there are cars on the road from the 1940s. So why can’t this highly advanced piece of machinery even last a decade?

Apple, for all their polished charm, only wants more money from me. They’re nice about it, but still…

We can’t trust any company to eschew profit to do the right thing. So why would we let tech companies draft laws? Especially laws that require a seven-eights (87.5%) vote in both chambers to amend, like Prop. 22.

AB5 may have been implemented poorly, but Prop. 22 isn’t a solution. It’s just another problem waiting to happen.

Perhaps another law will come along in the near future to properly deal with the gig economy, one that allows workers to define their own statuses. But for now, we can’t let Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, et al. make the rules.

Kelly Dessaint, a San Francisco taxi driver and veteran zine publisher, is the author of the novel “A Masque of Infamy.” His long-running Behind the Wheel zine series is collected into a paperback “Omnibus,” available through all book marketplaces or at idrivesf.com. He is a guest opinion columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.

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