Bay Area Uber, Lyft drivers rally on 500-mile 'pilgrimage' to Sacramento

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Some Uber and Lyft drivers are on what they call a 500-mile "pilgrimage" to Sacramento in support of State Assembly Bill 5.

One of those drivers is 63-year-old Debbra Garcia, who drives full-time for Uber. She says the working conditions need to change.

"By California law, we are supposed to be paid minimum wage or 52 cents a mile. We are not getting that. We are getting six cents a mile," claims Garcia.

Garcia was among the several dozen drivers and protestors who rallied at Uber headquarters in San Francisco at noon on Tuesday.

RELATED: Rideshare drivers fear increased traffic enforcement could hurt passengers

They began in Los Angeles on Monday. On Tuesday, they held two rallies in the Bay Area, including an event at 4 p.m. in Oakland.

If passed, AB5 would make a small change in their employment status that would have a big impact on the gig economy by reclassifying them from independent contractors into employees.

"They (Uber and Lyft) have been doing everything to get richer and richer, and the drivers have become poorer and poorer. That has to be fixed," says Linda Valdivia, who has driven for both Uber and Lyft.

As of now, Uber and Lyft drivers are classified as independent contractors. If they were made employees, which AB5 seeks to do, drivers would be given benefits and labor rights as such as unemployment insurance, health care subsidies and overtime pay - among others - including a guaranteed minimum hourly wage.

The bill has the support of democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who was on hand for the rally.

RELATED: Report: Uber cutting 'balloon budget' for work anniversaries, will save company $250K per year

"I'm here because where I come from, gig is another word for job. Which means if you are working in gig, that makes you a worker. And if you are worker, you ought to be protected as worker," say Buttigieg. "How can you tell somebody to be grateful for a job and then when they are asking for job protection, tell them, 'Oh, well it's not really a job.'"

Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center, says the drivers have a strong case.

Jacobs says because labor platform companies, like Uber and Lyft, set all the terms such as cost per ride and the amount paid to drivers, drivers should be classified as employees.

"Under any test, it is difficult to argue that they are not employees, and that they should not have access to those rights that we give employees," says Jacobs.

RELATED: Uber says glitch charged some passengers $1,300 instead of $13 in San Diego

Jacobs adds that as an employee, it also guarantees them a minimum salary after expenses.

"(It's) not just gasoline, it's the wear and tear of the car, the value of the car deteriorates, the cost of replacing a vehicle. So having employee status is important, both on the guarantee of minimum pay, but also guaranteeing those are earnings after expenses," says Jacobs.

Uber and Lyft both declined on-camera interviews. But companies issued statements to ABC7 News.

Lyft wrote:

"Lyft is advocating for an approach in line with the interests of our drivers, by modernizing century-old labor laws that make it difficult to provide both flexibility and benefits. That's why we've been working with lawmakers and labor leaders on a different solution, so drivers can continue to control where, when, and how long they drive, while also having some basic protections like a minimum earnings floor, a system of worker-directed portable benefits, and representation."

Uber's statement read:

"What we repeatedly hear from drivers is what they value most about Uber is the flexibility to work whenever, wherever, and for whom they choose. We believe that independent, on-demand workers should not have to sacrifice security to enjoy that flexibility. That's why we've been working with stakeholders to find a path forward that provides a minimum earnings guarantee for drivers; a robust package of portable benefits they can access no matter which rideshare company they drive for; and meaningful representation that gives them a say on matters affecting their lives and livelihood."

See more stories about rideshare topics and issues here
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.