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How One Gig Worker Is Barely Scraping By In Imperial Valley And More Local News

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Amid high unemployment and hot weather, local workers are trying to patch together a living in the “gig” economy. Plus, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer speaks at the GOP convention at a resort in Indian Wells. Also, the Trump administration is challenging California and automakers on the state’s fuel emission standards, SANDAG approves prioritizing new homes near public transit and California approves new vaccine exemption rules.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Monday, September 9th I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up home construction in San Diego, especially low as many California gig workers are just scraping by, especially in the Imperial Valley. We're unemployment's almost at 20%

Speaker 2: 00:18 sometimes I could travel from El Centro to Brawley, drop someone off and they only pay me three bucks and that's like 20 miles wasted

Speaker 1: 00:26 that more coming up right after the break. Thank you for joining us for San Diego News Matters. I'm Deb Welsh. Home construction is down across the state. KPBS as Sarah Katsuyama's tells us that those numbers are especially low in San Diego. For the first six months of 2019 San Diego County had the biggest drop in home-building in southern California. Marketing strategist, Miro Kobek with SDSU and bottom line marketing told KPBS that the biggest reason for the housing decline is the lack of space.

Speaker 2: 01:01 There's no more big areas to develop. So developments are much smaller. Construction material costs are up, labor costs are up and it's hard to afford a new house.

Speaker 1: 01:11 COPEC said that a new rent control measure going through the assembly right now could provide temporary relief. This new version of assembly bill 1482 would cap rent increases, thus making it more affordable to live in San Diego. Sarah [inaudible] k PBS news. The imperial valley consistently has the highest unemployment rate in California. The online gig economy driving for Uber and Lyft might seem like a solution for workers facing few job prospects and traditionally low wages in this agricultural valley. As part of our California Dream Collaboration KPBS as Amica Sharma reports on how much of a boost gig jobs are providing drivers in the valley.

Speaker 2: 01:54 About a mile from the terminals at Sacramento International Airport is a waiting zone. It's the cell phone lot where dozens of Uber and Lyft drivers wait their turn to get a passenger request. I am one to five, which means I'd say in about 15 minutes I'll be getting a ride. Sandy minor is 45 minutes into her wait, checking the incoming flight list against her position in the queue a bit more time and her right is there Jeff two cars over is Jeff Perry. He's a half hour in and still has about 50 drivers in front of him. Sometimes it's quick. Sometimes we're right now this happens to be a busy time of night. Right? A lot of flights are coming in between eight and 10. Both Perry and miner work as independent contractors for both rideshare companies. This means they can work wherever and whenever they want, but it also means they don't receive any of the benefits like vacation time, overtime and medical coverage that state law mandates for a worker who is considered an employee. The ride share companies maintain, the majority of their workers have full time jobs elsewhere where they get their benefits and prefer the flexibility for making an extra buck. But Perry sees it differently.

Speaker 3: 03:06 I don't deserve a fair wage because another guy pays me a fair wage and then in my time off you should be able to cheat me or something. I don't understand that.

Speaker 2: 03:14 A recent California Supreme Court decision called dynamics sides with Perry saying these drivers are employees based on a three part ABC test with B being the big one. That's exactly right. I mean the B is the one that's giving everyone consternation. Los Angeles Attorney Timothy Kim works for a firm that represents gig economy companies. He says the B test requires the person's work to be outside the normal business activities of the hiring company. For example, if a pizza shop hires somebody to clean the windows, that person could be an independent contractor, but if it hire someone to make pizzas, that person would have to be an employee. Businesses throughout California and not just the GIG economy players will be affected in some way by this test because almost every large company uses independent contractors to some extent and now assembly bill five a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, hopes to take that test and bake it into California law.

Speaker 2: 04:14 She says this will level the playing field. A lot of people are getting rich and it's not the workers and it's at the cost of the taxpayers. A B, five limits who will be affected by carving out professions that can remain as independent contractors, including emergency room doctors, realtors and insurance brokers. Other exemptions are still being decided, but it's unlikely the gig companies will be among them. Instead, Uber, Lyft and door dash are lobbying for a new category of worker that falls between contractor and employee, possibly bringing that issue to voters at the ballot box. All eyes are on California right now to see how this shakes itself out. Jared did early works for a libertarian think tank in Washington d C he says a compromise to include this new worker category could set California apart as a nationwide model, but as currently written to release says ab five could cost the business sector as much as $6 billion annually. And so if a broad swath of California's workforce was moved over to become employees instead of contractors, it would have a lot of costs. Back to Jeff Perry, the Uber driver at Sacramento International about two and a half hours after first arriving at the lot. He's dropping off his passenger and got word from the company about his earnings for the ride. $12 14 cents

Speaker 3: 05:36 I can't just sign on for an hour and go make money. This is not possible. Any driver who's been doing this for a while knows that

Speaker 2: 05:45 lobbying interests from all sides have descended upon Sacramento as ab five makes its way from committees to votes by the full Senate. Next week, Randall white cap radio news, California lawmakers

Speaker 1: 05:58 are moving forward with a bill that would put a cap on how much landlords could raise rents. It would also protect tenants from some evictions as capital Pelvic Radios. Randall wide explains amendments to the Tenants Rights Act of 2019 were made public on Thursday.

Speaker 2: 06:14 The bill would limit annual rent increases to 5% plus inflation. Housing built within the last 15 years is exempt to keep it from discouraging new housing construction. The rules would then sunset in 10 years. Said locker already is president of the California Rental Housing Association and is opposed to the bill. He says it's bad for both landlords and tenants.

Speaker 4: 06:36 It doesn't reflect the choice that the citizens of California, um, made last year in November with prop 10 where 56 out of 58 counties rejected a very similar proposal

Speaker 2: 06:50 on your Lawler is with the Western center on law and poverty and has lobbied for the bill. She says, a comparison to prop 10 is unfair.

Speaker 4: 06:58 Um, the voters rejected removing restrictions on local rent control policies. This is a statewide anti gouging and just cause eviction measure. They're kind of in the same ballpark, but I don't think they're similar at all.

Speaker 2: 07:10 An estimated 8 million renters would be effected by this bill, which could be voted on by the Senate. Early next week. Governor Gavin Newsome helped broker the amendments to it in Sacramento. I'm Randall white.

Speaker 1: 07:22 California's deal with auto makers to reduce car and truck emissions received more pushback from the Trump administration on Friday capitol public radios. Dick Miller has more

Speaker 2: 07:32 attorneys with the EPA and the transportation department sent a letter to the head of California's air resources board. It states that California is on notice over a deal forged with automakers to reduce vehicle emissions and improve fuel economy standards for major auto makers. Announced this agreement earlier in the summer. The deal came on the heels of the Trump administration's plan to rewind Obama era climate change policies on Friday. Governor Gavin Newsome called the Trump administration's latest move, a failed attempt to bully car companies. He wrote the California stands up to bullies and will keep fighting for stronger clean car protections. The Justice Department is considering an antitrust lawsuit against carmakers over their deal with the state in Sacramento. I'm Nick Miller,

Speaker 1: 08:20 San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer says the California Republican party can be the party of yes. By demonstrating solutions in the states homelessness crisis.

Speaker 5: 08:30 Yes. To mental health services to get the sick off the sidewalk. Yes to common sense projects like bridge shelters so people have a clean place to sleep at night and yes to building the housing that our state needs.

Speaker 1: 08:43 Faulkner addressed the state GOP convention over the weekend in the desert resort town of Indian Wells. The mayor is termed out at city hall next year. Many Republicans think he has a bright future. As a moderate in deep blue California, our party is already putting forth real solutions on the local level. Now it's our opportunity to do it statewide. Faulconer has drawn criticism for diverting money from permanent housing funds for his programs to reduce homelessness. And the city's budget analyst has warned that those programs, funding sources are unsustainable. Thanks for listening to San Diego News matters. If you liked the show, do us a favor and tell your friends and family to subscribe to the show.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.