“Tell the attorneys they can pander their anti-free market rhetoric elsewhere” — Why most Uber drivers are speaking out in support of staying 1099.

Published Thursday August 6th, 2015

Today, a hearing in San Francisco will determine if a group of Uber drivers can file a class action lawsuit against Uber. The complaint is that Uber drivers are misclassified as independent contractors and should be deemed employees and entitled to employee rights. This has been a story for months — and for good reason. The implications of this are a big deal for the independent workforce and the billions of dollars backing marketplaces that independent workers utilize.

Independent work is the future of work

Five years ago, hardly anyone in the US was even thinking about giving rides around their city for extra cash. Along came Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar. Today, hundreds of thousands of drivers in the US are giving rides using these platforms. If you don’t personally know someone who is driving, you will very soon.

The reason for this independent work revolution is simple: Whether you have a full-time job or no work at all, the idea of complete earning freedom and flexibility is compelling. You are in control: Your extra time, your car, and your phone. And you can rope in an extra $50, $100, or $500 a week.

Whether you have a full-time job or no work at all, the idea of complete earning freedom and flexibility is compelling.

Everyday people are compelled by this financial independence, or the idea of it, to pay off loans, save money, or take the family on vacation. Now these everyday people see an increasing number of driving opportunities that are (or will be) available to them, such as Shuddle, Gett and Wingz, and an increasing number of delivery companies, like Postmates, Saucey, and DoorDash.

Yes, despite these opportunities, as Hillary put it in a recent speech, this work is “also raising questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.” As Jeremiah Owyang remarked recently, “In 2008, it was all about ‘Joe the Plumber.’ In 2016, it will likely be ‘Carl the Uber driver.” This debate will not disappear anytime soon, and we’ll loop back to some of these challenges in a minute.

Survey: Uber drivers do not want handouts

We surveyed active rideshare drivers in California who were using SherpaShare to manage their work — around 10% of Uber and Lyft drivers in California — and this is what the majority told us: Drivers want to be independent contractors, not employees.

Our previous survey and report in June found the same sentiment: that 63% of rideshare drivers wanted to be independent contractors.

This latest survey was only open to active rideshare drivers in California, the drivers who will directly be affected by the California lawsuit, and the results were even more telling.

— 65% of California drivers are against the class-action lawsuit proceeding and being classified as an employee

— There was no significant difference of opinion whether you worked more or less than 15 hours per week

— 85% of those that commented on the survey supported being independent contractor and/or criticized those that were bringing this lawsuit about

Survey reactions: Pro-1099 and anti-lawsuit.

Here are just a few of the perspectives from comments that were pro-1099, the vast majority of the comments:

I’m against anything that would jeopardize the good thing we’ve got going. The people who are behind this are looking a gift horse in the mouth. If they win, they could end up on the street. Stupid.
I HATE the idea of W-2 classification. Tell the Attorneys they can pander their anti-free market rhetoric elsewhere!
A large part of the appeal for driving with Uber is that I am an independent contractor. I come and go as I please. I can drive one hour one week and 20 hours the next. -No meetings, no managers, none of what regular employees have to contend with. As with any small business, there are expenses, such as gas, vehicle maintenance, etc. I don’t expect Uber to have to deal with any of that. The firm representing the people who want to be reclassified as employees are definitely representing the minority of drivers using the Uber platform.
Self employed is the best thing that happened to me.
What kind of insincere moron thinks others should have to pay their business expenses???
Uber drivers are not employees. I also don’t think it is right of Uber to say if you don’t drive 15 hours you can quit. I am disabled and do this work when I can. When I can is very important to me since it adds some much needed money to keep me going. I drive when feeling at my best and not struggling.

Nearly a third of drivers said they SUPPORTED the class-action lawsuit and W2 status, although they were less willing to share their reasons. Here were two that broadly criticized without much explanation:

No way the drivers that make this business model viable shouldn’t receive some benefits that taxi drivers have hoarded for decades!
Uber’s entire business rhetoric is profoundly misaligned, creating a great rift, putting the driving community deep into an abyss of uncertainty.

With the right information, it will become an independent drivers market

Hundreds of thousands of people are becoming first time business owners — this is the biggest opportunity and biggest challenge facing drivers.

The opportunity is clear:

— Most drivers already have some full-time work and are looking for supplemental income. According to our December 2014 survey, 70% of drivers had full-time work during all or part of 2014.

— Drivers have an increasing number of options. The consumer demand is growing fast, services are launching in new markets daily, and new driving platforms are growing to meet the consumer demand.

— Drivers want to take advantage of these options. As we’ve reported in the past, 2/3rds of independent contractors work for 2 or more services and we’ve seen this steadily increasing.

The challenges are also clear:

— Drivers have not been small business owners before and don’t have all the answers — on how to keep track of expenses effectively, buy the right benefits, juggle their time across different services, etc. — yet. Services like SherpaShare are working on this.

— As long as drivers don’t have good ways of addressing these challenges, take-home pay will likely be lower and they’ll feel less empowered to meet their financial and entrepreneurial goals.

— One driver put it well: “As with any small business, there are expenses, such as gas, vehicle maintenance, etc. I don’t expect Uber to have to deal with any of that.”

Let’s hope drivers continue to discover ways of dealing with it themselves in the best possible way. By staying independent of the companies and getting the right resources and support, millions will be able to become empowered independent workers.

About SherpaShare

SherpaShare helps tens of thousands of rideshare drivers and deliverers manage earnings, expenses, and mileage in one place. SherpaShare helps these drivers get insight into their independent work and their opportunities. It’s the largest driver management app in the US and was founded in 2014 by Jianming Zhou and Ryder Pearce in the Bay Area.

About the Survey

A sample (n=700)of active rideshare drivers in California using SherpaShare were emailed on August 6th, 2015. The email briefly outlined the Uber perspective and the plaintiffs perspective as it related to Thursday’s court hearing. Drivers were then asked to select one of four responses, of which 125 drivers responded. The selections were as follows: I drive LESS than 15 hours per week, and I am AGAINST a class-action lawsuit and W2 status; I drive LESS than 15 hours per week and I SUPPORT a class-action lawsuit and W2 status; I drive MORE than 15 hours per week, and I am AGAINST a class-action lawsuit and W2 status; I drive MORE than 15 hours per week, and I SUPPORT a class-action lawsuit and W2 status

Want more information? Get in touch! A copy of this can be found on the SherpaShare blog. Driving? Check out our iOS or Android app.