Gig drivers in Colorado make an average of just $5.49 an hour, according to study – The Guardian US | CarTailz

Drivers for platforms like Lyft, Uber and DoorDash in Denver, Colo., earn significantly less than minimum wage on average when you factor in expenses and time spent on the app, according to a new study, the latest research to highlight the struggles of such workers around the world to highlight US.

Research by labor rights group Colorado Jobs with Justice in partnership with Gig Workers Rising surveyed hundreds of gig workers in the Denver, Colorado area between November 1, 2021 and January 31, 2022 about their jobs and found that drivers spent an average of 5 Take home US$.49 (£4.75) per hour after expenses. That average is about 35% below Denver’s 2022 minimum wage of $15.87 (£13.74) and well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 (£6.28) per hour.

The study represents the latest attempt to quantify gig worker wages, which can vary widely due to the variety of ways to calculate the cost, time and miles spent on the job. A 2018 study by the Economic Policy Institute showed that Uber drivers make an average of $9.21 (£7.97) an hour, while another study this year found that Uber and Lyft drivers make a median of Earned $8.55 (£7.40) an hour before tax.

Those numbers have fallen as US gas prices rise and inflation rises. As of June 2022, U.S. gas prices had risen 50% for the year. In Denver, where the study was conducted, median rental costs increased by more than 45% over the past year to $2,550 (£2,207). Some workers in the study reported driving up to 18 hours a day to make ends meet.

Although the Colorado Jobs with Justice study focused on drivers in Denver, gig worker drivers across the U.S. face similar problems, said Sofia Solano, organizing director at Colorado Jobs With Justice.

The findings come as states across the US are considering legislation to better protect gig economy workers. The Biden administration has also proposed a rule that would more easily classify gig workers as employees and give them access to benefits and federal job protection.

“We hope this study can shed some light on what it’s really like to be a gig worker,” Solano said. “If legislation is considered, no solution will be good for these workers unless they are given a seat at the table together.”

According to the study, the drivers worked an average of 38 hours per week. The majority of drivers – 61% – said they rely on gig work as their primary source of income. Companies like Lyft and Uber have long argued that drivers are contract workers who prefer flexibility and don’t need full-time protection or benefits.

Spokespersons for Uber and DoorDash fiercely disputed the study’s findings. Alix Anfang, a spokeswoman for Uber, denied charging drivers, saying the company’s internal data showed average earnings in Colorado at more than $37 (£32) an hour for time spent on the platform lay. Beginning added that Uber’s own data showed that 80% of drivers nationwide drive less than 20 hours a week.

A spokesman for DoorDash also said the company’s own data showed that drivers work less than full-time and spend less than four hours a week on a delivery. DoorDash added that the company’s data showed dashers making $25 (£22) an hour while being delivered across all markets.

A spokesperson for Lyft said the platform “continues to offer drivers the opportunity to earn on their own terms” and that its own data showed drivers were making more than $35 (£30) an hour including tips.

Activist groups and researchers have challenged earnings calculations for gig economy companies’ drivers in the past. Increasing costs such as car maintenance, rent and gas are making it impossible to make ends meet, said Jennifer, a driver who took part in the study and asked to be used under a pseudonym for fear of retaliation.

She said she started using Lyft and Uber to give her the flexibility to care for her family, including her ailing mother. According to the Colorado Jobs with Justice study, a majority of drivers reported that they support someone else with their income, including 23% who reported that they support two or more children with their income.

Adding to the rising costs, Jennifer said she lost more than $1,000 (£866) in wages after her account was temporarily closed as the company investigated her report of being assaulted by a passenger. During the investigation, she said she had little idea when her account would return. She was finally able to return after a week.

A spokesman for Uber confirmed that the platform restricts access to driver and passenger accounts when a “serious incident” is reported while agents are investigating it internally as part of their security policy.

Driver safety has long been an issue on train platforms. More than a fifth of the drivers in the study (21.7%) reported being exposed to violence or threats of violence at work; a similar number (19.7%) reported having been discriminated against because of their identity. Companies like Uber have declared that driver safety is their top priority and continue to invest in technology and policies that mitigate risk.

“These companies need to be better regulated,” Jennifer said. “They get away with so much and it’s unfair to their workers who need those wages to survive.”

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