published by moves // october 2021

Gig Workers
Deserve Better

The Demand for Better Working Conditions in Georgia

Opening Statement

In the past decade, we have seen a surge in the number of independent gig workers across the country and a shift in the dynamics of the workforce. From rideshare and food delivery to online freelancing platforms, the gig economy has opened the doors for millions of individuals as a way to make a living without constraints of the traditional 9-5.

Today, gig workers are the largest workforce in America with an estimated 55 million people. Yet, they are left isolated without the tools to benefit from a collective scale. This is about to change with Moves.

Moves exists to focus on the gig worker. We’ve built a world-class, all-in-one financial app to help gig workers understand their gig income, manage their gig business, and access cash when they need it. And now, we’re taking the next steps to build the Moves Collective to give gig workers what they deserve–ownership in the gig economy by giving them shares* in the gig platforms they work for.

Helping gig workers individually manage their gig business and build their financial health isn’t enough if they’re not given the same support to succeed in the gig economy. Gig workers need more. They need to be given the same support by gig platforms, consumers, and local communities to help them succeed.

Together, we can make the gig economy work for everyone.

Background

Millions have gravitated towards working on gig platforms such as Uber, Lyft, and Grubhub because of the immense opportunities to make an income in a frictionless way. The notion of being your own boss has become very attractive, making it an ideal way of making money for many.

Despite these benefits, there are shortcomings for rideshare drivers, food couriers, and independent contractors working on these gig platforms. Many of them have spent countless hours behind the wheel through rush hour, rainy days, and even an ongoing pandemic without the compensation, safe working environments, or respect that they deserve.

Looking at earlier this year, Uber and Lyft experienced driver shortage problems with the number of US-based drivers for both apps down 40 percent. As offices started reopening and leisure activities kicked back into action, both gig platforms struggled to bring drivers back despite spending millions of dollars on incentives.

Gig platforms aren’t the same as when they first launched years ago.

When Uber and Lyft announced their initial public offering (IPO) in 2019, gig workers experienced compensation cuts as an effort for the platforms to remain profitable. Both gig platforms have been under great pressure to make adjustments to show a path towards profitability, which was heavily impacted by the onset of the pandemic.

Ahead of Lyft’s IPO, they introduced several programs aimed at appeasing drivers, such as no-fee bank accounts, an expanded rental car program, and discounts on vehicle maintenance and repairs. For Uber, they introduced product updates like in-app tipping, a redesigned driver app, and a rewards program for high performers.

However, this still sparked outrage across the country and led to a global protest planned by the rideshare advocate group, Rideshare Drivers United. This was just the start of the tension between gig platforms, their earners, and activist groups.

Gig workers want to continue working within the gig economy, but the working environments have made it difficult for many to stay.

Drivers were demanding livable incomes, regulated fares that would guarantee drivers between 80 to 85 percent of the fare, and an end to unfair deactivations that force drivers to fear losing their jobs.

“I’m striking for my kid’s future,” said an Uber driver participating in the protest. “I have a five-year-old son, and I drive for Uber to support him. But it’s becoming harder and harder. First Uber cut the rates, then they put too many cars on the roads so there weren’t enough fares to go around. In the IPO filing, Uber said drivers will only get more dissatisfied because they plan to cut our pay and stop incentives. We don’t want our wages to stay just minimum. We want Uber to answer to us, not to investors. The gig economy is all about exploiting workers by taking away our rights. It has to stop.”

Gig workers are at the heart
of gig platforms

Looking at earlier this year, Uber and Lyft experienced driver shortageproblems with the number of US-based drivers for both apps down 40 percent. As offices started reopening and leisure activities kicked back into action, both gig platforms struggled to bring drivers back despite spending millions of dollars on incentives.

Rideshare platforms started introducing surge pricing for the consumers because they didn’t have enough drivers to match the rebounding customer demand. This helped to incentivize drivers to come back where the demand was high, but some drivers have claimed that they weren’t getting their cut.

“Drivers’ wages are not directly tied to surge pricing, so we end up getting the short end of the stick,” said Ken Parks, an Uber Driver. “They are charging surge rates to riders and drivers see Uber take over 50% of the fare. At the end of the day, we are trading wear and tear on our vehicles for exactly $0.06 over the federal mileage write off and that’s after three years of consistent rate cuts.”

Local groups from several states, including Georgia, have also taken to the streets to demand that gig platforms stop exploiting workers. In response, Uber released the following statement:

“Drivers are at the heart of our service—we can’t succeed without them,” Uber said in the email statement. “Whether it’s more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections, or fully-funded four-year degrees for drivers or their families, we’ll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.”

Yet, not much has changed.

Looking at the passing of Proposition 22 (Prop 22) in California, gig workers maintained their status as independent workers and were promised new benefits from major gig platforms including:

  • Receiving a guaranteed minimum wage while working
  • Subsidies towards health insurance
  • Supplement lost income for work-related illness or injuries
  • Protection by new policies that prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment

However, since the passing of Prop 22, a statewide survey was conducted and released. It was revealed that few current gig workers are eligible for the healthcare stipend they were promised. Of those surveyed, 86% find themselves ineligible for the healthcare stipend and 29% reported having no health insurance at all, leaving tens of thousands of uninsured drivers without the promised and heavily-publicized healthcare stipend that Californians voted for last November.

Gig workers depend on their respective gig platforms to keep their word.

Gig Workers Deserve Better

Gig workers have been put at the forefront of an ongoing pandemic to help their local communities. They’ve been there to help individuals and families by

Safely driving them to their destinations so they don’t have to take public transit

Delivering groceries, hot meals, and prescriptive medication so they don’t have to leave the safety of their homes

Moving anything from small furniture pieces to heavy, bulky appliances so they don’t have to break a sweat

Taking care of other day-to-day activities that many underestimate

Millions of gig workers pursue the benefits of independent work and depend on gig platforms for work. But if gig platforms want to stay competitive in a challenging labor market by providing the quality of services that customers seek and pay for, they need to start treating gig workers better. This includes offering better compensation, stopping unfair deactivations, and improving worker safety on the road to help keep gig workers on your platform.

To further understand the ongoing issues we’ve been hearing about across social media and news platforms, we have also reached out and interviewed our Moves Members from Georgia to understand their experience as gig workers.

Long Hours, Low Pay

A gig worker’s pay is made up of their base pay offered by their respective gig platforms, customer tips, and where possible, bonuses and surge pricing. If a trip takes a few minutes too long or a customer decides not to tip, their ‘hourly’ wage can decrease significantly. With the typical wear and tear on their vehicles and multiple trips to the gas station, their base pay gets stretched even further.

It’s straightforward–gig workers aren’t getting paid enough for the work they put in.

Of the Moves members surveyed:
51% said gig platforms should pay their workers better

Gig platforms weren’t always like this and many realized these jobs aren’t the same jobs they signed up for in the early days of the apps. A driver and volunteer organizer with Rideshare Drivers United told CNBC, “When I started driving, I was guaranteed 80% of the fare,” Moore said. “If that’s where we were right now, you would see a very different equation on the road. Drivers are seeing 20, 30, 40% of the fare at times.”

Since these gig platforms entered the public stock market, gig workers have experienced:

Rate cuts

Decrease of bonuses

Lack of transparency

“In the early days, they were incentivized with promotions and what they regarded as sustainable wages, taking more than $1,000 in pay from a full workweek,” cited by gig workers in the Washington Post. “But as the apps took off, pay models changed, and earnings slowly dwindled as drivers saw their weekly pay fall into the hundreds.” This makes it very difficult for gig workers to manage their personal and business finances.

Some weeks you don’t actually get any bonuses at all, so it’s always kind of frustrating. I’ll have to work extra hard and see how you can meet up your income to pay bills for the week.

— John

Lyft Driver

It has become increasingly difficult for rideshare platforms to balance both competitive consumer pricing and gig worker incentives. There are additional contributing factors that could affect a driver’s take-home pay, such as the passing of the bill that imposed a flat tax of 50 cents on rideshare trips in Georgia–a fee that will continue to rise with inflation.

Yes, gig workers have the flexibility to choose their hours and work as much as they please to make up for slower days, but their income still remains volatile. They rely heavily on bonuses, tips, and incentives to take home a living wage. And because of the unpredictable nature of tips and incentives, they’re not reliable or consistent.

Working longer hours to supplement their income isn’t a sustainable solution either–both physically and mentally. Even if gig workers wanted to make up for lost hours and slower days, there’s a cap to how many hours they can work.

There are time limits in place for the driver’s safety and to adhere to local regulations.

For example, Lyft requires their drivers to take a full, uninterrupted 6-hour break for every 12 hours they’re in driver mode to ensure they’re well-rested out on the road. While we agree that the time limits are essential for the driver’s well-being, we’ve heard from our members the difficulties that can come with tracking those hours.

Lucas, a rideshare driver for Lyft, shared his personal experiences on the road. “If I only drove 3 hours and then I rested for, say 5. When I log back in and do another 3, they’re counting that as 6 hours, and not the fact that I rested for 5 and then came back–it’s still 6,” he said. “So I can reach that 12-hour limit really quick again when I’m thinking, hey you know I just slept 5 hours. Well, I should have slept for another hour before I logged back in because I really screwed myself.”

If a driver loses track of their hours worked and rest times by just an hour, it can throw their day off. There should be an easier way for drivers to understand and keep track of their time limits. Many, just like Lucas, had to figure it out on their own to properly manage their time.

Blindsided by Sudden Deactivations

Thousands of gig workers rely on their platforms as their primary source of income and livelihood. They depend on gig platforms to pay their bills, put food on the table, and make ends meet. Any bumps in the road affect a worker’s ability to live comfortably as they don’t have the privilege that many of us do.

Lyft drivers in Atlanta have been in a back-and-forth with the rideshare platform over what they are calling unfair deactivations of their accounts—many of which are sudden and unexplained, putting drivers out of a job.

A couple of our members shared their experiences with unexplained deactivations. Many of them are unfair and triggered by customers who decided to report their drivers for reasons out of their control or to get out of having to pay.

There is no real job security. Your job can be lost at any time because there’s nothing defending gig workers from the wrath of the company wanting to just tie up the loose ends over literally nothing, unfortunately.

— Robert

Uber Driver

Gig platforms, such as Lyft can deactivate an account for any reason, but will only do so if a rider does something that violates their terms of service or puts a passenger at risk. This includes breaking a law, being under the influence while driving, the driver’s vehicle not meeting guidelines, and so on.

It’s understandable for gig platforms to enforce deactivations during their investigation process as a safety precaution. All feedback is highly valuable and great customer service helps to keep them competitive. However, the main issue with these deactivations is that they can put gig workers in a tough spot, especially if it was a false complaint and gig platforms can only take the customer’s word for it.

If gig workers aren’t given a chance to talk, they are left in the dark to watch their bills pile up.

Gig workers already experience income volatility and financial insecurities. If they get deactivated from working, then they have to go days without a single dollar entering their wallets. As work comes to a halt, their upcoming bills and expenses continue to creep up. It’s even worse when these deactivations happen during a weekend, the most lucrative days of the week.

I do think things like, reported incidents, you know. Send me a message, let’s talk. Let’s get both sides, let’s investigate and then decide what we’re going to do from there, so you’re not truly hindering someone’s ability to make a living because I can’t get those days back.

— Lucas

Lyft Driver

The deactivation process differs case-by-case and it can be difficult to know how long it can last. When the pandemic first began, many drivers across the country experienced mystery deactivations after gig platforms started updating their safety guidelines to include new requirements. Drivers weren’t given any real explanation other than their account was flagged for going against their terms of services.

Whenever a driver is deactivated, they have to reach out to customer support to understand why the deactivation happened in the first place. Sometimes drivers will have to wait until an investigation is concluded before learning what has happened. If the account hasn’t been permanently deactivated, drivers can gather information to submit an appeal, which can take days or weeks. All while scrambling to find another way to make money.

Left to Fend for Themselves

No one, regardless of the industry they work in, should ever have to enter an unsafe work environment. However since gig workers are self-employed independent contractors, they are left to fend for themselves.

From the lack of proper personal protective equipment during a pandemic to dealing with rude, disobedient customers, there is a spectrum of possible scenarios that a gig worker can be faced with when they’re on the job. This is especially if they’re always on the road and meeting multiple customers a day.

“You know I’m in Atlanta and I drive all over the place, I pretty much accept every ride that comes in. I don’t cancel rides,” said Lucas. “And you can’t always tell what somebody is doing or what they’re about until they actually get into your car.”

As a rideshare driver or food courier, where they work can play a role in how dangerous their work environment can be. The larger the street, the more opportunity for work, but also a higher chance that it has more traffic, pedestrian interactions, and nighttime activities. Outside of the unfortunate common scenarios that can occur day-to-day, gig workers are also exposed to potential unforeseen circumstances that occur and put them in danger.

In Atlanta, police have warned rideshare drivers after recent spikes in carjackings involving passengers posing as customers, only to set the drivers up to be robbed. In statements, both Uber and Lyft say they’re working closely with law enforcement and looking for ways to enhance safety technology for both drivers and riders.

“You’re not just taking a car, you’re taking someone’s job when you take someone’s vehicle,” said the local rideshare union president, Ken Wainwright. “We’re fed up. We’re tired of it”

Purchasing cameras, personal protective equipment, and taking safety precaution measures are almost always at their expense. Take, for example, the group of delivery workers in New York City looking out for one another when crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge. These gig workers have to rely on each other and have found safety in numbers to avoid violent attacks, knife-wielding thieves, and brandishing broken bottles.

How Gig Platforms Can Help

Change needs to happen to keep the gig economy flourishing. Better working conditions and basic workers’ rights start with the gig platforms. These workers depend on these apps to make an income, provide for their families, and build their future.

Better Compensation

Gig workers have been asking for better base pays and more bonuses and incentives to provide them the financial stability they need. It’s frustrating for gig workers to find out that customers are paying significant fees for their services, but up to 55% of it goes back to Uber and Lyft. It shouldn’t have to take a pandemic to offer bonuses and incentives for drivers to continue driving.

Instead of volatile incentives, increasing the base pay can give the stability that gig workers have been seeking. This can help them better understand their income and financially plan ahead instead of hoping for a bonus to come around.

More Transparency

With their earnings: To help gig workers better build up their financial health, they need to understand how much they’re making on each trip. Gig platforms should start providing transparency into how customer-paid fares and service fees are divided and allocated. Gig workers want to understand and know how much of a cut they’re getting to start holding gig platforms accountable.

With deactivations: There needs to be more transparency whenever a gig worker is deactivated. Our members have expressed their concerns with how anonymous and secretive the process is, along with the on-set anxiety of potentially losing their job. Gig workers want to be included whenever deactivations occur. They want to be notified ahead of time, given the opportunity to communicate with their gig platforms and have full transparency during the escalation process.

With trip details: We’ve heard from our members that some gig platforms have a tier system for their drivers. For example, Lyft has silver, gold, and platinum and a driver needs to reach a minimum number of points and driving score to graduate from each tier. At the silver level, drivers cannot see the trip details before accepting a ride. This includes essential information such as cardinal direction and estimated trip duration in minutes.

Stop Unfair Deactivations

Gig workers should be allowed to speak up for themselves whenever they are deactivated. We’ve heard once too many times where a worker has been disabled based on false accusations or reasoning out of their control. The relationship between a gig platform and its drivers should be as balanced as one between gig workers and customers.

If a gig worker is being deactivated, it’s important to consider how it can jeopardize their earnings. Our members have asked for:

A heads up is given before any deactivations

A chance to file any responses or supporting materials

Better support by phone

A formalized process for deactivations

Improve Tracking of Hours

We understand that there are work caps in place to prevent drivers from overworking and burning out, however, there needs to be an improved system for rideshare drivers to start tracking their hours. This will allow rideshare drivers to better plan their workday and reduce any blockers that can prevent them from making an earning.

Safety and Protection

Gig workers should feel safe and protected while on the job. The least that gig platforms can do, especially during a pandemic, is provide their workers with access to safety and personal protective equipment so gig workers can feel safe on the road.

We also ask that gig platforms start to put their workers at the forefront and consider investing in better technology that can help with safety. It could be worth partnering with local authorities to identify problematic areas and come up with safety strategies, such as providing gig workers with lights and locks, and introducing stricter laws on crimes against rideshare drivers–especially in a city like Atlanta, where violence towards gig workers has been on the rise.

How Gig Consumers Can Help

For customers using gig platforms to get around the city or have their meals delivered, please try and be considerate of the workers of service to you. You, as the consumer, can dictate the way rideshare drivers and food couriers work. Bad ratings, false complaints, and lack of tips can hurt them greatly.

The next time you’re getting a ride, ordering a meal from your favorite restaurant, or having a package delivered to your doorsteps, gig workers ask for your continued patience and kindness. If you want to bring a smile to their face, tip your drivers and leave them a positive rating.

Remember–your voice is powerful. As a consumer, you are providing the demand that fuels the growth of these gig platforms. You can be selective in which gig platforms you want to ride or get delivery with, and share your feedback wherever possible to help support gig workers in ways that are important to you.

How Moves is
Helping Gig Workers

Moves have built a world-class, all-in-one financial app to help gig workers manage their business, improve their financial health, and get ahead. We have been helping gig workers understand and manage their gig income while accessing the cash they need when they need it.

Now, we’re working towards real change for gig workers with the Moves Collective, a rapidly growing group of gig workers across America that own shares* in the platforms they earn with to build a voice louder than ever. A voice that can make a difference in the lives of millions of gig workers.

Together, we will speak out about what matters most to you. Learn more about the Moves Collective and how we’re working towards a gig economy owned by its owners.

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