RDU Visits The Capital To Provide Truth And Facts To California Legislators

September 2023

RDU Visits The Capital To Provide Truth And Facts To California Legislators

By Ed Carrasco, Rideshare Driver and RDU volunteer

State Senate Labor Chair Dave Cortese giving opening remarks.

Drivers throughout California gathered on an extremely hot day in Sacramento on August 15 to let legislators know that enough is enough.

The target was Proposition 22, the $200 million law created by the rideshare companies to pay drivers less and exclude them from the labor protections they deserve.

In an elegant and historic meeting room on the State Senate wing of the State Capitol, Rideshare Drivers United members in bright green shirts along with allies from the Asian Law Caucus (Winnie Kao, Ammad Rafiqi) and Policy Link (Abbie Langston) briefed legislators on the status of drivers under Prop 22 and what they do to help drivers immediately. State Senate chairman of the Labor Committee Dave Cortese (D – San Jose), State Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D – Los Angeles), and legislative staffers were present, with Cortese making the opening remarks.


While RDU and its allies gave hard numbers on the cost of demeaning laws to rideshare workers, it was the testimonies from drivers that put a human face on the devastating consequences of corporations like Uber and Lyft hijacking the electoral process for their own agenda and to demean workers by implying these changes are made with drivers in mind.

Eduardo Romero, a lead RDU member in Los Angeles, didn’t have health insurance until his wife was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. When it was clear his family needed health insurance, he started looking at Prop 22’s health insurance stipend. However, to afford the expensive Covered California premiums, he needed to put in more hours with Uber and Lyft even though rideshare didn’t pay much.

“I am one of the 10% of lucky drivers who receive the stipend, but it is only because I am forced to work at certain times to meet the minimum requirement of active hours to qualify,” he stated, noting that the Prop 22 stipend program doesn’t reach the vast majority of drivers. “Many other drivers do not qualify, even if they have the app on for 40-50 hours a week, and many more do not even know about these benefits.”

Besides breaking their promises on driver benefits such as the healthcare stipend, the impact of Prop 22 on California rideshare drivers has also been felt with families. Daniel Russell, a special education teacher and RDU driver in the Inland Empire, started driving full-time so he could spend more time with his young daughter. But as the pay cuts from both apps worsened, he found himself on the road more to make ends meet.


“I did over 20,000 rides,” he said. “At my peak, I was working 60-70 hours a week, and making less and less money.”

Drivers Eduardo Romero, Daniel Russell, and Esterphanie St. Juste Speaking at the Capitol with Abby Langston from Policy Link and Winnie Kao from Asian Law Caucus

Russell cited RDU’s study of driver expenses since Prop 22 became law, where drivers are actually netting an average of $6.20 an hour after expenses.


“We’re not better off under Prop 22!” Russell concluded.

A lack of healthcare benefits and worsening pay were bad enough, but drivers also had to worry about losing their jobs through unjustified deactivation causing drivers to work in a constant state of fear.


“They disrupt our ability to make money using their platform,” said RDU driver Esterphanie St. Juste, who recounted her experience of being deactivated from the platform after a false complaint. “That decision is based on whatever criteria they have. The app, the algorithm is your employer, judge, and jury.  Can you imagine trying to defend yourself without even knowing what was said about you or who said it?” 

These drivers laid out their struggles making ends meet under Prop 22.. While we wait for the California Supreme Court to decide the fate of Prop 22, the California State Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom can help drivers by passing meaningful legislation immediately. The drivers deserve this. Some of these include:

·       Full labor protections like our counterparts in the transportation industry.


·       Fair and transparent pay and benefits for drivers.


·       Better safety conditions for drivers.


·       Just cause protections and fair hearings to guard against unfair deactivations.

If the state doesn’t do their part in providing drivers with a fair and dignified workplace, Prop 22’s tentacles will spread to other industries, putting at risk the protections that  California State Constitution extends to all workers.


“We have to stop this before more industries follow suit,” St. Juste explained. “After all, who wants to pay for unemployment, health insurance, social security, when you can pass that off to the taxpayers by simply declaring your workers are independent contractors?”

For the first time since the pandemic, RDU drivers who traveled from all over the state to meet with legislators in the expansive State Capitol made it clear they wanted a new chapter in workers rights. 


The promises of Prop 22 were a bag of lies, and it’s clear that drivers cannot let conditions for their fellow workers slide further than they already are. These drivers hoped that by showing up in Sacramento, it was imperative that meaningful protections for drivers must be a priority for the Legislature.

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