An Uber Ambivalence: Employee Status, Worker Perspectives, & Regulation in the Gig Economy

UC Hastings Research Paper No. 381

Beyond the Algorithm: Qualitative Insights for Gig Work Regulation, Edited by Deepa Das Acevedo. Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming 2020.

24 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2019 Last revised: 22 Sep 2020

See all articles by V.B. Dubal

V.B. Dubal

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: November 15, 2019

Abstract

This article uses ethnographic research on gig worker advocacy groups in California to make sense of an apparent paradox. Extant survey research finds that a majority of Uber/Lyft drivers in the U.S. do not want to be employees. And yet, drivers and gig worker groups aggressively advocated to pass AB5, an internationally heralded bill in California that makes it very likely that they are considered employees under state law. I argue that the paradoxes embodied in the perspectives of workers in my research can be theorized as attitudinal ambivalence. This ambivalence toward employee status was informed both by their relative powerlessness in relation to gig companies and by the uncertainties and insecurities specific to app-based gig work. Overwhelmingly, drivers both wanted employee benefits and feared how the companies might behave as an employer. Rather than re-shape employment laws and restrict worker benefits to accommodate the policy prescriptions of app-enabled gig companies, regulators may use these research findings to expand the benefits available through the traditional employment regime.

Keywords: Gig Economy, Employee Status, Uber, Gig Work, Law & Ethnography, Resistance

JEL Classification: K31, K41

Suggested Citation

Dubal, Veena, An Uber Ambivalence: Employee Status, Worker Perspectives, & Regulation in the Gig Economy (November 15, 2019). UC Hastings Research Paper No. 381, Beyond the Algorithm: Qualitative Insights for Gig Work Regulation, Edited by Deepa Das Acevedo. Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming 2020., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3488009 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3488009

Veena Dubal (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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