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Black Riders Matter

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. | 8/26/2020, 9:29 a.m.
By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO
We have a fundamental right to participate in the emerging gig-economy. Black independent contractors who drive as a means of entrepreneurship do matter. iStockphoto / NNPA

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) is the nation’s oldest and largest trade association of Black-owned newspapers and media companies. Our NNPA member publishers hire employees, but we also hire a large number of independent contractors across America to accomplish the work and success of the Black Press.

In the tradition of African American business development, many independent contractors in our communities subsequently become the proprietors of their own businesses.

The point here is that today, across the state of California (and for seemingly counterproductive reasons), public policies, laws and regulations are being passed to prevent companies such as Lyft and Uber from having independent contractors drive and conduct related business across the state.

This is another glaring example of good intentions causing bad consequences, specifically for Black Americans, Latinx Americans and other people of color who are trying to work as independent contractors on a legitimate path to becoming sustainable and profitable entrepreneurs.

Systemic racism in America today has many varied and debilitating manifestations that keep a knee on the necks of people of color striving to achieve success, empowerment and lift themselves out of poverty. In my view, the proposed California law, Assembly Bill 5, is unconstitutional and racist. Other states should become aware and alarmed by these non-progressive and regressive regulations.

We have a fundamental right to participate in the emerging gig-economy. Black independent contractors who drive as a means of entrepreneurship do matter.

In fact, all Black Riders Matter. There are hundreds of thousands of people of color riders who depend daily on Lyft, Uber and other ride share companies to provide transportation and other vital services in particular during the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

A court in California just issued a temporary “stay” on restricting rideshare operations in the state over the independent contractor issue. The court ruling should be made permanent while civil rights and business leaders work together to undo the unjust and unfair rideshare regulations that may negatively impact millions of people throughout America.

The quality of life needs and aspirations of Black Americans and others should not be relegated to the political or exclusive whims of those who do not really care about the empowerment of our families and communities in California and across the nation. This is a growing national issue and I cannot and will not remain silent.