Protocol | Workplace

'Poverty is not flexibility': Gig workers strike over labor practices

Gig workers in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities staged a protest and strike to demand the passage of the PRO Act, as well as better wages.

Rideshare drivers and supporters rally at an Uber office in San Francisco

Rideshare drivers and supporters rally at an Uber office in San Francisco.

Photo: Megan Rose Dickey

Gig workers across the country staged a protest and strike today in response to Uber, Lyft and other companies' labor practices. At the rally in San Francisco, drivers spoke about the issues with California's Proposition 22 and urged the passage of the PRO Act.

"I came here to fight to be able to unionize," Ibrahim Diallo, a rideshare driver in the San Francisco Bay Area, told Protocol. "It's unbelievable that we are not allowed to form a union."

In San Francisco, Diallo and at least 50 other drivers and supporters led a caravan to one of Uber's offices in the city. Statewide, about 1,000 workers committed to going on strike, according to Rideshare Drivers United.

Erica Mighetto, a San Francisco Bay Area-based rideshare driver and organizer with RDU, told Protocol she wanted to "expose Prop. 22 for the lie and the fraud that it is."

Proposition 22 went into law earlier this year in California after Instacart, Uber, Lyft and other gig-economy companies spent $224 million convincing voters to pass the initiative. Prop. 22 was a direct response to the passage of AB 5, the California law that strictly limits when companies can hire workers as contractors. During the campaign, gig-economy companies said Prop. 22 would give app-based workers a variety of benefits while maintaining the flexibility of being an independent contractor.

"That is absolutely untrue," Mighetto said of maintaining flexibility. "Drivers at SFO are now making 36 cents per mile. Poverty is not flexibility."

Mighetto also said up to 80% of driver fares are going directly to Uber and Lyft. When Mighetto began driving four years ago, Lyft only took a 20% cut, she said.

"That number has doubled three, four times now," she said.

A recent Mission Local analysis supports some of Mighetto's claims. In 10 rides with Uber and 10 rides with Lyft, drivers made an average of 52% of customer fares, according to the report.

Uber, however, disputes that claim. In Q1 2021, Uber reported its mobility take rate was 21.5%. That is the "average percentage of the total amount riders paid that went to Uber," the company's head of work communications, Matt Wing, explained over email.

"I would also note that individual trips don't show how much Uber drivers are really earning because they don't include incentives and don't accurately reflect the total earnings drivers get," Wing wrote.

The median earnings per hour for drivers are $25.28 in San Francisco and $26.85 in Los Angeles, according to Uber. However, those earnings do not take into account expenses such as insurance and gas.

Lyft did not explicitly comment on Mighetto's claims, but referred Protocol to a blog post of how Lyft calculates pay. The blog post, however, does not detail the company's take rate.

Truck with sign that says "gig workers on strike." Rideshare drivers and supporters caravaned to the rally at Uber's Mission Bay office in San Francisco.Megan Rose Dickey

Beyond the wages, Mighetto said Uber's deactivation policies are another example of a lack of flexibility.

"Some drivers are just arbitrarily deactivated, for even such a menial claim that they're not wearing a mask," Mighetto said. "And these are untrue and false claims that they're losing their jobs over."

Mighetto added that many voters and drivers were under the impression that workers would receive health insurance plans under Prop. 22. The measure does state that workers are eligible for healthcare subsidies to be applied toward Covered California insurance plans. However, the advertisements during the Prop. 22 campaign did not include all of the pertinent details.

Workers have protested Prop. 22's health care benefits policies before. In May, We Drive Progress and other organizations demanded that gig-economy companies automatically provide health insurance stipends to all workers who meet the minimum time requirements. Under Prop. 22, companies can require gig workers to apply for these benefits.

Rideshare Drivers United is also advocating for the passage of the PRO Act, which is currently in Congress.

"We think the PRO Act is the only way to sort of chip away at the injustice that's being propagated by Proposition 22," Mighetto said.

The PRO Act would alter the definition of "employee" in order to broaden the number of people who are covered by the National Labor Relations Act, which protects the rights of employees and encourages participation in collective bargaining.

If the PRO Act becomes law, the NLRA would use the test outlined in AB 5 to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. That test looks at whether the person is free from the employer's control, does work that is outside the scope of the company's normal business operations, and conducts similar work independently and outside the context of the employer. That test would likely result in the classification of gig workers as employees, Rey Fuentes, a Skadden Fellow at the Partnership for Working Families, previously told Protocol.

"The PRO Act essentially reverses that and says that none of these workers should be presumed employees but we should determine whether or not they are independent contractors or employers by using the ABC test," Fuentes said in April. "And that ABC test would likely result in their designation as an employee."

Car with sign that says "Fuck Uber" Rideshare drivers and supporters caravaned to the rally at Uber's Mission Bay office in San Francisco.Megan Rose Dickey

Uber declined to comment specifically on the protest and strike, but Lyft suggested I reach out to Geoff Vetter with the Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Coalition, the Uber- and Lyft-backed organization that promoted Prop. 22. Vetter provided me with a handful of comments from rideshare drivers in favor of remaining independent contractors. Here's one:

"There's no doubt that Prop. 22 benefited me and other drivers," Jim Pyatt, a rideshare driver, said in a statement. "I was already happy being a rideshare driver before Prop. 22, but the 120 minimum earnings guarantee, access to health care and compensation for mileage all translates into higher earnings. That's something to be thankful for this year."

As Uber and Lyft eye Prop. 22-like legislation in other states, Dr. Veena Dubal, a professor of law at University of California Hastings, told Protocol she feels scared of the working conditions for drivers, as well as the amount of money that companies are willing to spend to advance their own agenda.

"I'm very concerned about not just this industry and the workers in this industry, but also all of the other industries that we know that Uber's CEO has articulated he wants to enter and disrupt," she said. "And that we've heard venture capitalists, since Prop. 22 passed, say they want to put money into disrupting such that everyone becomes a gig worker in the service economy."

Protocol | Policy

5 things to know about FCC nominee Gigi Sohn

The veteran of some of the earliest tech policy fights is a longtime consumer champion and net-neutrality advocate.

Gigi Sohn, who President Joe Biden nominated to serve on the FCC, is a longtime net-neutrality advocate.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Gigi Sohn to serve as a Federal Communications Commissioner, teeing up a Democratic majority at the agency that oversees broadband issues after months of delay.

Like Lina Khan, who Biden picked in June to head up the Federal Trade Commission, Sohn is a progressive favorite. And if confirmed, she'll take up a position in an agency trying to pull policy levers on net neutrality, privacy and broadband access even as Congress is stalled.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

If you've ever tried to pick up a new fitness routine like running, chances are you may have fallen into the "motivation vs. habit" trap once or twice. You go for a run when the sun is shining, only to quickly fall off the wagon when the weather turns sour.

Similarly, for many businesses, 2020 acted as the storm cloud that disrupted their plans for innovation. With leaders busy grappling with the pandemic, innovation frequently got pushed to the backburner. In fact, according to McKinsey, the majority of organizations shifted their focus mainly to maintaining business continuity throughout the pandemic.

Keep Reading Show less
Gaurav Kataria
Group Product Manager, Trello at Atlassian
Protocol | Workplace

Adobe wants a more authentic NFT world

Adobe's Content Credentials feature will allow Creative Cloud subscribers to attach edit-tracking information to Photoshop files. The goal is to create a more trustworthy NFT market and digital landscape.

Adobe's Content Credentials will allow users to attach their identities to an image

Image: Adobe

Remember the viral, fake photo of Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls that duped and delighted the internet in 2017? Doctored images manipulate people and erode trust and we're not great at spotting them. The entire point of the emerging NFT art market is to create valuable and scarce digital files and when there isn't an easy way to check for an image's origin and edits, there's a problem. What if someone steals an NFT creator's image and pawns it off as their own? As a hub for all kinds of multimedia, Adobe feels a responsibility to combat misinformation and provide a safe space for NFT creators. That's why it's rolling out Content Credentials, a record that can be attached to a Photoshop file of a creator's identity and includes any edits they made.

Users can connect their social media addresses and crypto wallet addresses to images in Photoshop. This further proves the image creator's identity, but it's also helpful in determining the creators of NFTs. Adobe has partnered with NFT marketplaces KnownOrigin, OpenSea, Rarible and SuperRare in this effort. "Today there's not a way to know that the NFT you're buying was actually created by a true creator," said Adobe General Counsel Dana Rao. "We're allowing the creator to show their identity and attach it to the image."

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at

Protocol | China

Why another Chinese lesbian dating app just shut down

With neither political support nor a profitable business model, lesbian dating apps are finding it hard to survive in China.

Operating a dating app for LGBTQ+ communities in China is like walking a tightrope.

Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

When Lesdo, a Chinese dating app designed for lesbian women, announced it was closing down, it didn't come as a surprise to the LGBTQ+ community.

It's unclear what directly caused this decision. 2021 hasn't been kind to China's queer communities; WeChat has deactivated queer groups' public accounts and Beijing has pressured charity organizations not to work with queer activists.

Keep Reading Show less
Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.

The Oura Ring was a sleep-tracking hit. Can the next one be even more?

Oura wants to be a media company, an activity tracker and even a way to know you're sick before you feel sick.

Over the last few years, the Oura Ring has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch.

Photo: Oura

Oura CEO Harpreet Rai swears he didn't know Kim Kardashian was a fan. He was as surprised as anyone when she started posting screenshots from the Oura app to her Instagram story, and got into a sleep battle with fellow Oura user Gwyneth Paltrow. Or when Jennifer Aniston revealed that Jimmy Kimmel got her hooked on Oura … and how her ring fell off in a salad. "I am addicted to it," Aniston said, "and it's ruining my life" by shaming her about her lack of sleep. "I think we're definitely seeing traction outside of tech," Rai said. "Which is cool."

Over the last couple of years, Oura's ring (imaginatively named the Oura Ring) has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch. The company started with a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, but really started to find traction with its second-generation model in 2018. It's not exactly a mainstream device — Oura said it has sold more than 500,000 rings, up from 150,000 in March 2020 but still not exactly Apple Watch levels — but it has reached some of the most successful, influential and probably sleep-deprived people in the industry. Jack Dorsey is a professed fan, as is Marc Benioff.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Latest Stories