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California state lawmakers and drivers reportedly said Uber and Lyft have failed to make good on their campaign promises when advocating for the passage of Prop. 22 last year. Drivers are calling on the ridehailing giants to automatically provide them with the health insurance subsidy that was promised to them, especially after a year of COVID-19-related restrictions.
Prop. 22 was passed by 58% of California voters in Nov. after Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart spent more than $200 million on the campaign. The initiative — which allows gig companies to continue to treat their workers as independent contractors instead of employees — promised a guaranteed wage for drivers and health care stipends for those who work for the apps 15 hours a week or more. But according to a Sacramento Bee report, drivers are finding that many of them don’t qualify for the stipends. The report says the stipends cover about 40% of the average premium for the lowest tier of a Covered California plan, especially if they have health coverage through the state.
Lyft driver Neide Tameirão reportedly spoke at a news conference organized by We Drive Progress and Mobile Workers Alliance, and said she worked about 50 hours a week before the pandemic to make ends meet. After Proposition 22, she said nothing had changed. “I still work 50 hours a week and my earnings are still barely enough to get by. I don’t make enough money, so I’m on Medi-Cal,” she said. Tameirão added that she was rejected when she applied for the health-care stipend because she was on Medi-Cal.
Lucas Chamberlain, a driver in San Francisco, said he has worked for almost all the ride-hailing and delivery apps, and has done about 6,000 trips with Uber. He’s also on Medi-Cal and was denied the health care stipend. Moreover, Chamberlain said that in 2019, he was doing a delivery for Uber Eats on his Vespa when he was struck by a vehicle. He needed surgery on his leg and physical therapy afterward — none of which Uber paid for, he said. Under Prop. 22, drivers are now supposed to be automatically enrolled in accident-protection insurance.
Similar to Tameirão and Chamberlain, a survey commissioned by SEIU 721 reportedly showed that only 15% of drivers polled had applied for the stipend, and nearly 86% are likely to be deemed ineligible. “Voters were sold misinformation, based on what we’re seeing on the ground,” State Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo reportedly said.
Geoff Vetter, a spokesman for the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Coalition, reportedly said Uber and Lyft have communicated to the drivers about how to qualify and apply for the new health benefits. “In the five months since Prop 22 passed, thousands have started receiving the health care stipend and more will sign up to receive it as app-based work rebounds,” he said. Lyft did not return Market Watch’s request for comment.
An Uber spokeswoman sent Market Watch the following statement: “The goal of the healthcare stipend is to provide the drivers and delivery people who don’t already have health insurance a path to access coverage. Surveys of drivers and delivery people with Uber show that the vast majority already have health insurance coverage from a separate employer, through a spouse, prior service, or some other source.”
The drivers and two members of the state Assembly reportedly also called for federal action by way of passage of the PRO Act, which would give drivers the right to organize. The PRO Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in March. The Senate has yet to take it up and may not do so because it does not appear to have enough support from senators.