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Brett Arends's ROI

Oct. 14, 2020, 12:51 p.m. EDT

If you want to know what’s best for Uber and Lyft drivers, ask them

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By Brett Arends

There’s a battle royal going on in California right now over whether people who drive for Uber and Lyft and DoorDash should be considered “employees” or “independent contractors.” It’s a fractious debate, everyone has an opinion, and the race is neck and neck.

We’ve heard from activists, lobbyists, tenured professors, “labor leaders,” corporate flacks, lawyers, hired guns, journalists with nothing to lose, and the executives running the companies themselves.

There’s just one thing missing.

So far as I have been able to find out, after talking to people on all sides, not one source – not one – has actually conducted a single, independent, neutral and completely reliable poll asking what the drivers themselves think.

No, really.

So far there have been four polls people are citing. All suggest around 70% of drivers, maybe even more, want to stay independent contractors.

But one of the polls , conducted by the website Therideshareguy , is completely unscientific – basically, a reader survey with a 1% response rate.

The other three polls? Two were commissioned by Uber /zigman2/quotes/211348248/composite UBER -2.11% this one and this one and this one – and the third was commissioned by Lyft /zigman2/quotes/208999293/composite LYFT -1.97% .

I’m not making this up. I think I’d rather ask Zoltan the Magnificent on Santa Monica pier.

(Meanwhile, a survey by the the Institute for Social Transformation , at UC Santa Cruz, found that 63% of drivers wanted public officials to enforce laws “so app-based workers who are misclassified as contractors could have access to unemployment, paid leave and other benefits under city and state laws.”)

This debate should strike especially close to the bone for many readers because “gig” jobs with companies like Uber are increasingly part of how many among us prepare for retirement .

Many drivers are over 50. Maybe most. One unscientific survey found that half were over 40 . Another, also unscientific, says about 70% are over 50 .

Some of these older drivers, like Dave Zarrow in Reston, Va. , are already retired. They drive part time to get out of the house and supplement their meager retirement incomes.

Some in their 50s and 60s are waiting to retire. They may have lost their jobs, and found it difficult to get a new one. (American employers, despite the law and despite what they say, are reluctant to hire dinosaurs over 40 .  But they are too young to retire, and can’t yet afford it.)

Still others, especially over 40, are moonlighting at these jobs to put much-needed cash into their IRA and 401(k) accounts. In case anyone hadn’t noticed, we have a looming retirement crisis.

For these people, part-time, casual “gig” jobs may be perfect. You’re your own boss. You don’t need to “retrain” or “onboard” or persuade a millennial interviewer that you’re not senile. You can work when you want and knock off when you want. If you want to take the afternoon off to watch the game or go golfing, you don’t need anyone’s permission.

$ 45.82
-0.99 -2.11%
Volume: 16.87M
July 27, 2021 4:00p
P/E Ratio
Dividend Yield
Market Cap
$87.91 billion
Rev. per Employee
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 53.32
-1.07 -1.97%
Volume: 3.39M
July 27, 2021 4:00p
P/E Ratio
Dividend Yield
Market Cap
$17.91 billion
Rev. per Employee
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