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Ride-Share Drivers Voice Opposition to AB 5

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SACRAMENTO -- California is poised to make big shifts to the way people work but not everyone is on board with the proposed changes.

Sacramento State Akamine Kiarie drives for Lyft to keep up with expenses. For him, the on-demand employment is the perfect fit.

“There’s just a whole lot of logistics involved to making money on the side while doing school. It's very as compared to just turning on an app between classes. I mean, to me that’s golden,” Kiarie explained.

However, he worries a California Supreme Court ruling will mean the end of that flexibility.

The ruling essentially means many independent contractors like Kiarie must be classified as employees. They would get employee benefits but Kiarie worries his ability to work when he wants to could be at risk.

“Turning it into an employee situation just is going to take away from that,” he told FOX40.

Thursday, he rallied with advocates from the I’m Independent Coalition, an organization led by the California Chamber of Commerce and backed by various business interests, including ride-share companies.

The group says it wants lawmakers to pass legislation that gives independent contractors the best of both worlds.

“It’s almost 2020,” said Becky Warren, who is with the coalition. “We need a modern solution where people can have that flexibility of staying independent contractor but still having some modern labor protections, like some portable benefits or have some pay standards.”

California lawmakers are taking up the issue, just not in the way the I’m Independent Coalition wants.

Assembly Bill 5, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would essentially put the Supreme Court ruling into law, requiring most workers to be employees instead of independent contractors. Gonzalez said employers not giving standard benefits to employees hurts everyone.

“Our social security fund will collapse,” Gonzalez said. “We won’t have health care. State taxpayers will be paying for a lot of folks in order to just get by.”

When asked about people like Kiarie, who said it should be his right to choose, Gonzalez said she’s trying to preserve choice for the workforce as a whole.

“If a company has the ability to abuse workers by just saying they're independent contractors, that hurts the rest of us,” Gonzalez said. “That means everybody that goes and works for them is going to be an independent contractor and that's what's happened. They don't really have a choice then when all the work starts becoming that.”

Assemblywoman Gonzalez said she expects movement on AB 5, which is currently in the Appropriation Committee, by later this month.

The I’m Independent Coalition said they currently do not have a lawmaker on board to sponsor the type of legislation they want.

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