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The ‘Gig’ Is Up on Biased Research in the Fight Over AB5

‘No on 22’ promotes biased, ‘meaningless’ research in fight over AB 5

By Charlyce Bozzello, July 21, 2020 3:53 pm

In a quest to convince Californians to “Vote No on Prop. 22,” a ballot measure that would cement the status of gig workers as independent contractors, the California Labor Federation just released an information guide for voters. The guide cites research from a recent study out of the University of California Santa Cruz that’s been lauded by labor groups as proof that gig workers are unhappy with the companies they gig for. 

But it turns out, the study’s results are questionable at best; evidence shows they were actually designed by certain labor groups to help them organize gig workers. 

There’s an ongoing national effort to classify gig workers as full-time employees, instead of independent contractors. Nowhere has this effort gotten such a strong foothold as California. In addition to the state’s controversial AB 5 law, California’s Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against gig companies alleging that their workers have been misclassified. 

However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “79 percent of independent contractors preferred their arrangement over a traditional job.” What’s more, studies show that reclassifying workers as full-time employees in California could result in almost one million jobs lost

Labor-supported groups, including Gig Workers Rising (GWR) and Jobs with Justice (JWJ), haven’t let these statistics keep them down. With the help of the San Francisco Local Agency Formation Commission and UC Santa Cruz, JWJ decided to do its own study of gig workers.  

The outcome was the UC Santa Cruz study, which suggests most gig workers in the San Francisco area work more than 30 hours a week, and earn “poverty level” wages. To rally more support for AB 5 on social media, GWR took to Twitter to describe the study as the “most comprehensive survey of actual work done.” But internal documents that detail the study’s creation, reported on recently by the Washington Free Beacon, reveal the extent to which it was developed and carried out by labor groups to produce biased results. In fact, JWJ’s own hired researcher raised red flags regarding the study’s methods. 

The study initially called for 1,200 survey respondents, but after coronavirus hit, JWJ limited it to an online survey aimed at reaching just 500 people. An internal description of the survey admitted this reduced goal was “not representative” of the gig worker experience. But, it would “turn around data quickly” — something groups scrambling to organize gig workers desperately needed. 

According to the San Francisco city administrator, Jobs with Justice was “leading” the project in both “survey outreach and field operations.” The group even drafted the survey questions. UC Santa Cruz researcher Chris Benner, who has worked with union-backed groups before, was also brought on to provide assistance. 

Actual survey responses were collected by offering participants a $10 gift card, paid for by Gig Workers Rising. And even Benner noted that such payments “leave open lots of opportunities for people to game the system.” To make matters worse, survey authors had no way to verify if respondents were actually gig workers — almost 100 respondents didn’t even report which gig company they worked for.  

Even after recruiting respondents through labor groups, and offering to pay them, the final product fell far short of its initial goals. It contained just 219 responses. One analysis from the Pacific Research Institute called the final product “meaningless.” 

Clearly, that hasn’t stopped labor groups from using this study to combat Prop 22. Not only would this measure secure the status of California gig workers as independent contractors, it would set a precedent for other states considering laws similar to AB 5.

Gig workers and voters alike deserve to know the full story behind this research before hitting the polls in the fall.

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14 thoughts on “The ‘Gig’ Is Up on Biased Research in the Fight Over AB5

  1. Even if one of the intents of AB 5 was to have employers provide medical insurance to gig workers and free lance workers, what about all those people who already have their own insurance? Like me. Why are we denied independent contractor status? The Italian dictator Mussolini had a slogan that epitomized Fascism:: “Everything inside the state, nothing outside the state, Nothing against the state” California is dictating that no job shall exist outside of the state and its sycophantic unions. It is totalitarian.

    1. I’m agree with you!!! I have no idea why people see themselves working for somebody. Being independent is better.

  2. I have been negatively impacted by this law and i cant even put to words what this law has done to my life I wasnt at poverty level before but now i sure am and i also have no way out thanks to ab 5 and this virus im having a quarter life crisis that i wouldnt wish on anyone.
    I know im not alone on this either.
    The government is not working for the people on this one its working against us and no one seems to care.

  3. California used to be introduced as the entertainment Capital of the world…
    NOW California is listed as the entertainment Capital of the Nation.
    After this AB5 Gig law we will loose our status of the Entertainment Capital of the Nation due to the disappearance of work opportunities for our vast population of creative, performing and non 9-5 independent entrepreneurs. This effects catering, restaurants, dress designers, hat makers, hotels, media centers, theaters etc. LA’s famed garment district will vanish and these are a sample , partisl list..

    1. People did not see that the intentions of the politician who created this law, did it to bump her political status and get easy votes on her next political move!!! Open your eyes people.

  4. Uber and lyft are billionaire because drivers don’t make any money
    I took a pool trip from San Diego Airport 3 people 3 different address , after one hour and a half of driving to finish the last destination , I closed the trip, the total was 80.00 dollars for the 3 of them and Uber paid me 30.00 dollars, you really think been an independent contractor is good for drivers ?.
    It took me an other hour to get back where I can pick up more trips
    After gas and maintenance and inssurance I only net 10.00 dollars.
    The only people that want to be independent contractor is the part timers because they don’t care about making money they drive to reduce stress from their fool time job

    1. Can’t agree with you more, what these gig companies trying to produce is fake data and they can’t stay in business with fly by night part timers, gig is a relatively new concept with changing work environments, and there has to be rules and labor laws to keep the drivers protected, like Canadian supreme court said, driver’s take customers from point A to point B, not there App. People who are against it are, very near sighted and selfish, these corporate crooks are every where and contributing factors to poverty and homeless problems etc, which leads to other social problems, think rationally and responsibly!!!

      1. There’s no law that says you have to work for these companies. If enough people left they would shut down. This proposition doesn’t just affect drivers, a lot of other self employed contractors will be out of work.
        Personally I don’t think this has anything to do with protecting workers, it’s all about taxi unions and Sacramento’s policy of screwing every penny they can out of everyone and anything.
        I’ve been with Uber 5 years and have no complaints other than that their help line is awful.

        1. You must be a part time driver then. Many of the drivers have no other job and are forced to work for less than minimum wage NET after their expenses. This should be illegal. I know, I drove for Uber and Lyft for more than 3.5 years in Los Angeles and then in San Francisco which are the busiest cities. If not for being retired and on a pension and SSI retirement, I could not survive on their pay plan. By the way, during my 3.5 years experience, Uber and Lyft cut the pay plan to drivers by 52%. Hiw much do u think they will cut it in the next 3,5 years without becoming employee?

  5. The leaders of the company I’ve taken so much money out now that it’s hard to make a decent wage. I would never consider doing the driving full-time it’s just not profitable at all. I feel bad for people that have to do it full-time because they are realizing that there’s no money in it anymore. Also I’m not sure how we would be getting insurance because you have to work full-time in order to get insurance from your company so that doesn’t make sense and they’re saying something like getting paid six dollars an hour keep me out of that I make more than that by driving

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