California gig drivers are making below the minimum wage, a new study shows

Drivers for some of the largest rideshare and delivery companies in California are earning well below the state minimum wage despite the implementation of Proposition 22, according to a new report from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center and its Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics.

The median wage for a California rideshare driver was about $5.97 per hour without tips and $7.63 per hour with tips, according to the study. Meal delivery drivers made $4.98 an hour without tips and $11.43 with tips, it said. California’s minimum wage is $16 an hour. Researchers drew on data from 52,370 trips by 1,088 drivers who worked on six passenger and delivery platforms in five major metro areas.

The report, published earlier this week, comes as California’s Prop 22, which allows gig services to classify drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, is back in the news. California voters had passed the measure in 2020, but lengthy legal proceedings have followed. Judges at the California Supreme Court are currently weighing whether the law violates the California Constitution.

Other states and local governments are weighing whether gig workers should be classified as independent contractors instead of employees. Massachusetts’ Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this month over whether to allow a similar measure to go before voters in November.

“These results suggest that Proposition 22-type initiatives underway in other states may not adequately increase sub-minimum compensation rates and that most drivers would be better paid as employees than as independent contractors,” the researchers wrote.

In response to the report, a Lyft spokesperson pointed Fast Company to the company’s February commitment to ensure that drivers make at least 70% of rider fares each week after external fees. That means if Lyft has taken out more than 30% of rider payments by the end of the week, it will pay drivers the difference.

“In Q1 of this year, the median U.S. Lyft driver earned $31.10 including tips and bonuses per hour of engaged time,” the Lyft spokesperson says. “After taking into account estimated expenses such as gas and maintenance, that’s around $24.25 per engaged hour. Improving the driver experience is essential to our purpose and we are constantly listening to driver feedback.”

The Protect App-Based Drivers and Services coalition, an industry group, accused the Berkeley researchers of cherry-picking data. “This study is politically motivated using manipulated data intended to confuse readers and create theatrics the night ahead of the Prop 22 Supreme Court hearing,” the statement reads. (A spokesperson for DoorDash similarly claimed that the report was “full of cherry-picked” data.)

Uber didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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