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UCLA Study Finds That Vast Majority Of Calif. Gig Workers Struggling To Make Ends Meet

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A new report out of UCLA has found that four in every five California freelance workers have struggled to cover cost of living expenses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The report released Monday by the UCLA Labor Center found that 80% of gig workers "can't meet household expenses."

Of the 302 people surveyed, 76% said that gig work was their primary source of income, the study found. 49% said they were forced to stop working when the pandemic first took hold in mid-March.

Of those that continued working, 70% said they saw their hours reduced.

Meanwhile, 48% reported that their companies provided them with no personal protective equipment.

"We've known for a long time that gig work is precarious and unsustainable for workers, despite whatever the big tech platforms might say to the contrary," said Brian Justie, co-author of the report and a researcher at the UCLA Labor Center. "This study makes crystal clear just how vulnerable gig workers are in moments of crisis, and how unprepared these companies are to protect the workforce they so clearly depend upon

The report, which was cosponsored by SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, comes as California voters are deciding whether to back Proposition 22, which would keep app-based drivers for companies like Lyft and Uber as independent contractors.

The California Legislature passed AB 5 in September of 2019, a law which requires companies who employ gig workers, such as rideshare drivers, to reclassify them as employees, affording them benefits including minimum wage, overtime and unemployment insurance.

Under Prop. 22, instead of being categorized as employees, drivers for app-based companies would remain independent contractors but be provided with "alternative benefits," including a guaranteed minimum level of pay and healthcare subsidies, all based on how much they drive. It would also restrict local regulation of app-based drivers, criminalize impersonation of such drivers and require background checks.

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