Driver Opinion: Why I’m Fighting for Protections and Independence

Driver Opinion: Why I’m Fighting for Protections and Independence

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I’m Robert Wahed and I have been driving with Lyft for almost a year. Throughout the past few months, I’ve participated in many conversations with drivers and the Lyft team about AB 5, a new bill about how to classify independent contractors (like Lyft drivers). Over 23,000 drivers have contacted lawmakers to ask that AB 5 reflect our best interests, and I believe certain protections and independence are the most important among them.

Before I started driving, I had been searching for work for years without success after an on-the-job injury. My luck changed when a friend told me about the possibility of using my own car to earn a decent income as a driver with Lyft. Instead of continuing a long and frustrating job search, I was able to start working in just a few weeks and my concerns about not being able to pay my bills were immediately gone — not only for myself but everyone who depends on me. 

I love driving because I control when, where, and how long I work — something I could not do with a traditional job. That is why I am concerned about AB 5, the recently passed legislation that could result in drivers losing flexibility over our work. For example, having to drive during scheduled shifts rather than choosing my schedule as I do today. As this legislation was debated, I spoke with Lyft executives and drivers from across the state about what we like about our work, what matters most to us, and what the future of driving with Lyft could — and should — look like. 

Lyft co-founder and President, John Zimmer, met with California members of the Lyft Driver Advisory Council this summer to talk about AB 5 and what real protection for the modern economy could look like.

Lyft co-founder and President, John Zimmer, met with California members of the Lyft Driver Advisory Council this summer to talk about AB 5 and what real protection for the modern economy could look like.

Lyft listened to drivers like me in one-on-one conversations, at driver appreciation events, and in meetings with Lyft leadership. The result is a plan that could give drivers the flexibility we care about most, while improving earning protections and security for many. 

Lyft’s proposal to fix AB 5

  • Independent status for drivers — We should be able to drive whenever, wherever, and however we choose – and have the freedom to work for multiple platforms. 

  • Guaranteed earnings — we should earn a clear minimum with reimbursement for driving expenses, and have the ability to earn more on top of that. 

  • Benefits — We should receive injury protection, paid sick time off, and family leave.

We've spent the past few months collaborating with legislators on a solution that works for drivers. We weren’t looking for an exemption from the law but rather a new way forward. In total, over 23,000 California drivers contacted our lawmakers to fix AB 5 and support our proposal, including:

  • 10,905 drivers who emailed their personal stories to their legislators in June to show why they wanted a fix for AB 5 

  • 7,170 drivers who called legislators, pushing for a fix to AB 5

  • Drivers from across the state who attended over 32 meetings with their CA representatives to share their personal stories and tell legislators why they needed to fix AB 5

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  • Tuesday, July 9: Hundreds of drivers rallied at our Day of Action at the Capitol to share our stories and urge for a better solution than AB 5.

  • Drivers held 9 press conferences across the state to protect our independence.

The truth is, most drivers covet the ability to work when, where, and however long we want. Ninety-one percent of us drive less than 20 hours per week. The ability to create our own schedule and turn the app on whenever we want is paramount to our decision to do this work. It’s the reason I choose not to get a traditional job, where my schedule would be rigid and have to be planned in advance. 

Despite the efforts of thousands of drivers like me, The California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 5 and the Governor signed it — without giving our solution the consideration it deserved. Stockbrokers, lawyers, real estate agents, and other white collar professionals were allowed to keep their independence under AB 5. We need to continue the fight so drivers are able to keep the same freedom. 

I’m proud of the work we did and am encouraged by Governor Newsom’s commitment to continue discussions in the coming months to fix AB 5. Now is the time for leadership and we will continue to make sure all drivers are being heard.


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