A California hit to the gig economy and my days as a taxi driver.

I drove one of these.

News out of California this morning.

The California Senate passed a bill that will expand the number of Californians classified as employees. The law requires companies to treat those who have been classified as contract workers as employees.

That would be those who work in what is called the gig economy.

The best known companies are Uber, Lyft, Postmates and Doordash. But the gig economy is huge.

The California bill is expected to pass the Assembly and Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign it into law.

My first thought was trying to guess when such a law will pass the Illinois legislature and be signed by Governor Pritzker.

How about soon?

In the time frame between the exodus of basic industry, good-paying union jobs from Chicago and my return to school to become a teacher, I drove an American United taxi cab for four years.

I was an independent contractor, an independent businessman.

It wasn’t called the gig economy, but that’s what it was.

I drove 12 hours a day, stopping only to run into class at UIC. I paid American United a fee for the use of their cab because they owned the medallion. I paid for my gas. That was called “the nut.”

Some days I didn’t make my nut.

Nearly 40 years later I can still recall that feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing that I  would have to drive 12 hours with nothing more than the hope I would at least make enough to cover my costs.

And should I take time off from driving to find a toilet or grab a bite to eat? I might miss picking up a fare if I did.

I wasn’t an employee of American United. I had no health insurance. No minimum wage. Certainly no union protection.

But I was lucky. For too many workers, gig work isn’t a transition to something else. It’s what they do to pay the rent and feed the kids.

And it is more and more what working in America looks like.

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