App-Based work is a lifeline for many immigrants like me

National App-Based Work Alliance Will Advocate for Solutions That Preserve Worker Independence and Access to Benefits

Written By: Hossein Javaheri

Years ago, I came to the United States from Iran to find new opportunities for my family and me. For 34 years, I worked at a 7-Eleven, rising from a sales associate to a manager. But after 34 years of set hours and rigid schedules, I needed to find something more flexible because the constraints of my old job made it tough to look after my child who lives with disabilities. I realized I wanted to spend my last few years before retirement being my own boss and working whenever I wanted, while also having the ability to take care of my child.

In 2017, I started driving with Uber, and it was the perfect fit.

Like so many who do app-based work, I was drawn to these opportunities because of the flexibility. I can work when I need to, but if I need to come home to be with my family or go to medical appointments, I can stop working with no questions asked. The flexibility helps me balance my work and family life in a way that few other jobs can.

Aside from enabling me to make a good living, app-based work brings me a level of joy that other jobs cannot match. When I get behind the wheel, every day is a new experience. I’ve been able to get out and explore parts of my city that I’ve never seen, meeting and sharing stories with so many incredible people along the way. Also, spending more quality time with my loved ones is truly the greatest gift of all.

Many times, passengers ask me about where I’m from originally, and I get to tell them all about Iran: the food, the people, the sights and sounds. I can tell them about what it was like living there, and what it was like moving to America. In return, my passengers tell me about their own unique experiences and backgrounds.

As a first-generation immigrant, it’s easy to feel different from others around me. But when I share stories with my passengers, I can feel the many similarities that people everywhere share with one another.

It’s important that lawmakers know how much workers like me value the flexibility to work on our own terms and schedule. Flexibility is helping many independent workers balance our lives and our earning opportunities in a way that traditional employment never could. We need policies that support independent work, so that more people who need flexibility can choose work that best fits their lives.

However, the more I learn about the PRO Act, the more worried I am that the flexibility and independence that drew me to Uber could be taken away. If the PRO Act becomes law, I could lose my ability to be an independent worker and would have to work a strict schedule – which is what I wanted to get away from when I left 7-Eleven.

That’s because parts of the bill are identical to California’s Assembly Bill 5. When AB 5 took effect, I watched as thousands of workers like me in California were reclassified as employees, causing many to lose their earning opportunities altogether. I was relieved that voters there passed Proposition 22 to protect the flexibility of app-based work, and I’d hoped that would be the end of the reclassification push. Yet, with the disastrous California ABC test’s inclusion in the PRO Act, AB5 would become nationalized under federal law, and workers everywhere would suffer the consequences.

For many immigrants like me, driving independently is an incredible lifeline that helps us explore our community, meet new people, and earn on our own terms. With a child that needs a little more care and attention, I need the flexibility to put family first without sacrificing my income. If the PRO Act becomes law, many earners would lose the flexibility that makes independent work so special. I hope lawmakers learn from California voters and reject this legislation.

Hossein Javaheri is an Uber driver from Colorado