Contents:

    In December, DoorDash announced the return of their ‘WeDash’ program, which had all DoorDash employees (including the CEO) make deliveries via the app. Senior RSG contributor Sergio Avedian fully supports this program and thinks it should be expanded to all gig companies, including Uber and Lyft. Below, Sergio makes the case for why all gig employees should make deliveries and accept ride requests, plus why these apps don’t offer as much “freedom and flexibility” as they promise. 

    As a retired Wall Street trader, I am a capitalist. I believe in the entrepreneurial spirit of this country and I have no doubt it is one of the main reasons for the US to lead the world in the technological transformation of the global economy. 

    With the invention of the internet, we have successfully shifted from being mostly a manufacturing economy to a service economy. The drawbacks of this metamorphosis are plenty, but that is a topic for another article.

    Today, we literally don’t have to leave our house to get goods and services delivered to our homes/offices within a very short period of time, sometimes in minutes. From its inception, the rideshare industry has proven to be a phenomenal growth story, it has grown to a scale that was unimaginable even a decade ago. 

    Millions of people around the globe depend on rideshare for their transportation needs. Millions of rideshare drivers across the world try to make an honest living driving strangers around and putting food on their family table. 

    Uber and Lyft have created opportunities for millions of people with the promise of “freedom and flexibility” via their platforms. I congratulate them, and as a capitalist, I applaud their founders and early investors for having the vision to transform personal transportation in the twenty-first century as well as reaping the rewards in billions of dollars during the process.

    The following are some of the leaders of this technological transformation, creating billions of wealth for themselves and their VC investors.

    Travis Kalanick (left) was the co-founder and longtime CEO of Uber, Garrett Camp (right) was a founder and current member of Uber’s Board of Directors
    John Zimmer (left) co-founder and President of Lyft, Logan Green (right) co-founder and CEO of Lyft.

    These men paved the way for a new type of service called “rideshare.” During the process, they fought the local and state lawmakers tooth and nail. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on Prop 22 comes to mind to defeat AB5 in California.

    Ultimately, they were able to trample employee rights in this country. With their NO ASSET business models (both companies probably don’t even own their servers, let alone the cars their passengers ride in), they successfully created millions of Independent Contractors (ICs) as rideshare drivers. 

    Are Algorithms and Code Holding Drivers Hostage?

    As much as I am a capitalist, I believe in fairness. We’re all adults, we make our own decisions and live with them day in and day out. 

    Is the flexibility and freedom to earn a few bucks a day worth foregoing our rights as employees? This means healthcare benefits, a minimum wage, sick or paternity leave, paid time off, retirement benefits, etc. 

    Well, it seems like it since today millions of GIG WORKERS are delivering people, goods, and groceries all over the globe.

    Are these millions of people in charge of anything else other than when to turn their app on and off? Unfortunately, NO! But no one is holding a gun to our head – or is that a fallacy? 

    When one can’t control what he/she can earn for a specific job, maybe we are being held hostage by today’s algorithms. 

    Millions of lines of code are written by hundreds of thousands of software engineers who probably enjoy the fruits of their labor with exorbitant salaries and stock options on the back end, but do gig workers share the wealth? These engineers probably only experience and enjoy the service as consumers, but do they ever get out there and endure the downside of working for an algorithm?

    Ultimately, there is a massive disconnect between someone sitting in an office writing the code for these services and someone actually performing the duty. Without drivers, in most cases, since these goods have to be actually delivered to customers, the GIG economy as we know it would not exist. 

    Without drivers’ blood, sweat and tears, there would be no Amazon, Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Doordash, Postmates, Grassdoor, Drizly and countless others.

    Congratulations, DoorDash

    I try to read every article that comes out regarding the gig economy in order to keep pace with new and developing trends. A few weeks ago this headline caught my eye.

    “DoorDash to require all employees to make deliveries again”

    I almost fell off my chair. What? This was something that I have been thinking and talking about for years!

    In my opinion, every employee or a new hire at these app-based companies should experience the difficulties the frontline workers endure. From unjust deactivations to low pay, to unhappy customers, dealing with drunks, etc. 

    Tweet

    They should not just do it for a photo opportunity, either. 

    Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi did this recently, but quit after doing a few deliveries and complained that the second day was not as profitable as the first one. Hey, DK, it is the algorithms your coders write – somehow after a good day of driving, we get throttled. 

    I have a great idea for all Uber/Lyft employees including their top executives. Go get a rideshare car rental and drive strangers around for a week. Let’s see if any of you can survive the grind.  

    I bet they’ll be complaining about base pay of 60/21 cents on Uber and 80/12 cents on Lyft (in the Los Angeles market). 

    Guess What?! Corporate Employees Don’t Like This Plan!

    The DoorDash program will require all employees, including the company’s engineers and even the CEO, to make at least one delivery a month (that’s a joke 1 delivery? Let’s go for a week). It’s called “WeDash” and was announced in January 2022.

    Some DoorDash employees are saying they’re not happy about the return of the program. As the NY Post reported, one employee who makes $400,000 a year with DoorDash, stated:

    “What the actual f—? I didn’t sign up for this, there was nothing in the offer letter/job description about this.”

    -DoorDash employee about WeDash

    Luckily, others commented that the program would be a helpful opportunity to empathize with and learn more about the frustrations of delivery workers. Exactly! But others chimed in to agree with the original poster’s negative outlook on the program, I wonder why? Is it below their social, elite status? 

    Get off your high horse and get out there. Cutting rates at any chance, as Uber and Lyft do, is also not in our job description, neither is getting carjacked nor people throwing up in our cars. 

    The inconsistencies in driver pay, oversaturation, unjust deactivations due to fraudulent passenger complaints is not in our job description either. Where is that in the Terms of Service? 

    The wide gap between the people who create the apps and the people who do the actual work as gig workers must narrow. The only way to do that is for the folks who write the code to get out there and actually perform the service they often enjoy as consumers. 

    Takeaways for Drivers

    In our fast-paced app-based world, we see the companies I mentioned above really building out a presence everywhere because they’re trying to optimize these services for consumer convenience and comfort. 

    Meanwhile, to do that, they have to have all these contingent workers (ICs). So it’s in their best interest to really have a very large workforce to choose from because they have to deal with massive turnover (over 80% of rideshare drivers quit in less than 6 months according to RSG’s Uber driver survey).

    An app-based world also makes it easier for these companies to render gig workers invisible, which is a really important part of their narrative about being ‘tech’ companies and not ‘transportation/delivery companies’, specifically for Uber/Lyft. 

    All of this effort to make all these workers invisible (ICs) and give them as little voice as possible really helps with the kind of future building that no one is going to be happy about with the exception of a few. The autonomy of which 12 of the 24 hours of the day to work is just Uber/Lyft PR department freedom/flexibility rhetoric!

    A lot of gig workers I talk to on a daily basis feel like the freedom of not having a boss or a manager looking over their shoulder is one of the main reasons for them to choose this line of work. But is that really so? 

    Haven’t the algorithms replaced that old boss or manager? Can’t these algorithms deactivate drivers (without recourse) because a line of code someone wrote decided that what a gig worker did was unsafe? 

    Think hard and long folks, maybe the machine is your boss now, and it’s capable of watching over you 24 hours a day.

    Do you agree or disagree with me? Do you think I’m overstating things?

    -Sergio @ RSG

    Sergio Avedian

    Sergio Avedian

    Sergio has been driving Uber and Lyft for about five years. He has over 6000 rides on both platforms, mostly on Uber. Sergio has a degree in finance, and worked on Wall St. for over eighteen years. In his free time, he still trades stocks and derivatives for himself and a few friends. He is also a PGA certified golf instructor, teaching golf is his passion. Sergio is married with two wonderful kids who take the rest of his afternoons/weekends between their soccer practices and golf tournaments.