Felton E. Lewis, President and CEO at Lab References Advisory Group/Ride Share Drivers Association.
He has been in the Insurance Business for 45+ years. He is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business (Air Force). They pivoted to PPE Equipment when the Covid-19 Virus came and now that it is abating we are getting back to our Core Values and seeing the need to provide assistance to Ride Share Drivers.
Connect with Felton on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Drivers are not employees, independent contractors.
- Drivers have no benefits, health insurance, dental insurance, disability etc.
- Drivers Safety is at risk from some violent passengers
- Many female drivers have been sexually assaulted
- Protecting drivers and providing them with benefits they need for them and their families
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix.
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business Radio Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Association Leadership Radio. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:20] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Association Leadership Radio. And this is going to be a good one. Today on the show, we have Felton Lewis III, and he is with the Rideshare Drivers Association. Welcome, Felton.
Felton Lewis III: [00:00:34] Thank you, Kan, appreciate it.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:36] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about Rideshare Drivers Association.
Felton Lewis III: [00:00:42] Well, we started it. We had a vice president of diversity working with us, and then she went to Lyft and as a service-disabled veteran on business, she said she thought she can get us a meeting with the founders of the company. And so we started the Rideshare Drivers Association to benefit the 1.5 million Lyft drivers, although there are more Uber drivers than Lyft drivers. But we had someone, Brinda Smith on the inside that Lyft, so we proceeded to offer it to live and we met with them a couple of months ago and the founder and a couple of the members on their board and we let them know, in fact, we have a Lyft driver, Freddie Stewart. And on my LinkedIn post, his comment, they said it would be good if he could give his experience with Live and what happened with Mr. Stewart. He’s been with Lyft for over six years, over 10,000 rides that he’s picked up. But last December his wife died and his wife had all the family benefits. He has a 12 year old daughter, so the health insurance, dental and all of that came through her employer. And as a Lyft contracted employee, he has no benefits. So when she died, he lost all the benefits.
Felton Lewis III: [00:02:04] So it left him and his daughter trying to fend for themselves. So we let him know that if he could give us some video of his experience that we could share with the founders of Lyft, that it might assist. And Brenda thought it was a great idea because now you have a Lyft driver for six years, 10,000 rides, given his experience. And since none of these companies, they don’t want to be their drivers title employees, they’re subcontractors, they’re independent contractors. They’re 1099 employees, not even employees. They’re just 1099 person. So if they get hurt on the job, if they don’t have any, there’s no workman’s comp that covers their injuries or anything because they’re not an employee. So we presented to the founders in the group that we have a program that will provide their members health insurance, dental vision programs and disability, and they can do it based on number of years. They spent like $1.5 billion to retain and recruit drivers last year. And we said would it be a lot less to just reward drivers for their faithful service by allowing them to have shares that the company would pay for? But the driver is getting it as a tool for faithful service to live.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:30] But but then they become a member of your association and you’re handling kind of the benefits and the insurance.
Felton Lewis III: [00:03:37] Yes, sir. Yeah. They become a member of our association, so we have little packages that we can put together for them.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:43] So did they go for that? Did Lyft go for that?
Felton Lewis III: [00:03:47] Well, what happened? Their stock went down. And they dropped everything. They stopped talking to us. So I told my son, I think we ought to approach Uber because Uber has more drivers than Lyft. And Uber has a health insurance program that’s horrible. It’s $10,000 deductible, 15, 20,000 deductible in a driver. Can’t I mean, the deductible will put him in bankruptcy. It doesn’t make any sense. So my son said, well, let’s just wait to see what happens with Lyft. And like I told him, well, I’m a service disabled veteran and I’m not used to having people put us on hold for months at their pace, I mean, especially since there are opportunities for others. So we haven’t cracked a nut yet. We haven’t been able to have Lyft or Uber say, okay, well, we’ll provide some kind of incentive. Stay with us for X amount of years. You get this complete, so many drives, you get that we just haven’t come to a meeting of the mind. They realize there’s a problem. In fact, many of the women and drivers are being assaulted. Fact Lyft is being sued because women drivers have been sexually assaulted.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:14] Now, what about going directly to the drivers and just not going through these big organizations? Because there’s a lot of I mean, there’s Uber and there’s Lyft, but there’s DoorDash. There’s lots of other driving and rideshare apps out there. I know those are the largest and most active, but there’s a lot of people doing this kind of work. So wouldn’t anybody doing this kind of double sided market work?
Felton Lewis III: [00:05:38] Yeah, they would benefit. But it’s not like they make a lot of money, you know, to be able to afford the health insurance package, even the US dot gov, you know, they get low premiums but the same thing with them, they get a high deductible and the deductible is what kills you ten, 15 to $20000. You just can’t afford it. If you get a hospital bill and it’s $10,000 and you got a $10,000 deductible, that’s that’s your bill now.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:12] So you have an association right now or you’re trying to start an association. Do you have any members thus far?
Felton Lewis III: [00:06:19] No, we hadn’t promoted it. We just went and get the AI in the articles and corporations and whatever because we were trying to get. One of the companies to say, okay, well, just have your members come to our association and we’ll provide the benefits, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:06:37] But then that would require them paying you.
Felton Lewis III: [00:06:41] Well, they’re paying the drivers. And if if it’s a benefit to retain, I mean, rather than spend 1.5 billion to try to retain drivers each year, I mean, it would be a lot less the program that we’re offering now.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:56] If you went directly to each driver, how much would it cost the driver?
Felton Lewis III: [00:07:02] Depending on the basic package, $49 a month would get them free prescriptions, telehealth, one dental, which is a dental program.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:18] Right. So $49 a month, they can afford that.
Felton Lewis III: [00:07:22] Yeah, but it doesn’t give them health insurance.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:25] So how much to get health insurance in that mix?
Felton Lewis III: [00:07:29] No, we’re talking about three, 405, six, $700, depending on the size of the family.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:35] So that’s where it becomes where it gets more expensive. So it’s less affordable for these folks.
Felton Lewis III: [00:07:44] Yes. Yeah. And we’re trying to see if the company realized they’re benefiting from the drivers, providing a service to them and they’re making millions, billions of dollars doing what they do. Why not? Instead of spend 1.5 billion to try to recruit and retain drivers, why not give your faithful drivers like Freddy Stewart, who’s been with you six years and 10,000 rides, give them some type of incentive to stay with you. Make it worthwhile for them to keep.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:21] Right. I mean, but you’re asking them to make this business decision. And obviously, they’ve chosen not to. But you have if your mission is to serve rideshare drivers, then you really don’t care who pays for the the premium. Right. So you can get a sponsor to kind of co-brand your association. That’s not just Lyft. It could be anybody. It could be, you know, some restaurant chain. It could be it could be anybody. It could be your insurance company. I mean, there’s lots of folks that can afford that want they would want these drivers as clients for them. I mean, why not expand beyond the two big rideshare companies? I mean, they obviously don’t have an interest in doing this. Why don’t you just find somebody else who would benefit from having relationships with millions of rideshare drivers?
Felton Lewis III: [00:09:13] Yes. And like you said, there’s Instacart. There are a whole lot of different rideshare, Walmart, cab people delivering groceries, Myers, Kroger’s, and so all of them independent contractors like Uber drivers and Lyft drivers.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:32] Right. So there must be a reason why that all those big companies are going that way. And the reason is probably they have a lot of drivers and they don’t have to pay anything and then they’re going to get them. But they know they churn through them because they can’t it’s not sustainable for a long periods of time. But there must be other companies that would benefit from having relationships with millions of drivers?
Felton Lewis III: [00:09:56] I would think so. Even Domino’s Pizza, you know, all of them now everybody is delivering. So.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:03] Right. So now for you, starting an association, I mean, this is a noble cause for you to help all these millions of people that are really struggling out there. I mean, they’re making they want the flexible hours. They want to be able to turn on and off the app and work whenever they feel like it. And they make, I guess, they think is a fair it’s a fair trade for them to make the money for doing the work they’re doing. But like you said, they don’t have any benefits, they don’t have insurance, they don’t have disability, they don’t have all these things that a traditional employee would have. What kind of was the catalyst for you to get involved in helping all these people?
Felton Lewis III: [00:10:43] Freddie Stewart He grew up with my son here in Battle Creek. He’s in Denver, Colorado.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:48] So you knew him? It was personal for you?
Felton Lewis III: [00:10:51] It was personal, yeah. And his wife had died and he had a 12 year old daughter and he had no benefits.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:59] So now starting an association, though, that’s a big undertaking. Had you ever been involved in associations before?
Felton Lewis III: [00:11:07] Oh, yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:09] So you’ve been involved in associations. So you knew how it worked and you knew how to get one set up and you knew how to kind of fund it.
Felton Lewis III: [00:11:18] Yeah, I’m not a spring chicken. I’m 80 years old, so I’ve been around the block a while and I’ve been involved in accounting and business law and self employed for over 50 years.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:30] So so you know, as being self employed that that lifestyle doesn’t come with benefits usually.
Felton Lewis III: [00:11:37] Right? Right. But if you make enough money, you can buy the benefits, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:11:40] So you think the challenge for drivers are they don’t make enough money to buy the benefits.
Felton Lewis III: [00:11:46] Right. Without some support from the company that’s benefiting from their labor? You know, I mean, these guys are I mean, and if you I mean, Lyft and Uber now have a program where you can lease one of their cars, but it’s astronomical. I mean, that’s ridiculous. And then if you buy if you use your own car and the engine blows out. How do you replace the engine of the transmission? How do you keep your car service? And we offer that as a benefit to a company called High Speed X that offers oil changes, express lube and things like that for the drivers to.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:27] Right. So you’re trying to kind of put together a package that has all of the things that a driver could benefit from having.
Felton Lewis III: [00:12:34] Yes, sir. Absolutely.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:36] And it’s just a matter of getting more drivers to either sign up for it and pay the price and pay the money for that or partner with another organization that has the funds that will sponsor, in essence, each of these drivers.
Felton Lewis III: [00:12:49] Right? Correct.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:52] Well, that’s a tough it’s tough. That’s a tough one. I mean, you know, you’re you’re asking for these companies to invest a lot of money and change their business plan. So, I mean, it’s going to be a.
Felton Lewis III: [00:13:03] Challenge when I have to do it anyway, because so many drivers have been assaulted, especially females sexually assaulted. I mean, if you go on Uber and you see you just put in a search or a rideshare drivers or Uber drivers, Lyft after that has been assaulted. Even killed. In fact, like I said, there’s a big billion dollar lawsuit against Lyft now because it’s not one or two. It’s several hundreds of female employees being sexually assaulted. So they don’t have any kind of protection, any kind of benefits.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:41] Right. But there’s also lots of people signing up for this app because they want the flexibility and they want that fits in their lifestyle. So, I mean, the companies will change when there’s a reason to change. So thus far, the pain of all of that isn’t greater than the pain of just getting new a new driver.
Felton Lewis III: [00:14:04] Right? Correct. But now they have this suit against him, you know.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:10] Right. But I’m sure that’s not the first suit. I bet they’ve been sued since day one.
Felton Lewis III: [00:14:15] Probably problem. And they feel as though they have the lawyers and the legal to settle. Without losing any benefits or the company going out of business.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:33] Right. I mean, those kind of large businesses, it becomes a math problem, really. You know, which one is the thing that is going to cost them more.
Felton Lewis III: [00:14:44] With cost more? Yeah. And about the dollar.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:47] And then right now it’s cheaper for them all to be 1099. That pain isn’t greater yet. At some point, maybe with government regulations or different states changing the rules about 1099 independent contractors versus employees. Then the pain.
Felton Lewis III: [00:15:05] Necessary movement now to unionize in New York and California. So.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:10] Right. But we’ll see. I mean, that’s a I mean, it’s those examples have been few and far between.
Felton Lewis III: [00:15:17] Correct.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:19] So you got your work cut out for you, Feldman.
Felton Lewis III: [00:15:23] Yeah, but we are right. We’re we’re taking our time, but we’re not in any rush to, you know, create any strikes between us and the companies or us in the drivers. It’s not it’s like, here’s a benefit from someone who grew up with my son who works at.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:43] Lyft right now. What about just kind of getting a bunch of drivers on the wait list to show to all these larger firms like, look, I got a million drivers that want this. You know, you’ll have a lot more compelling case if you have a whole lot of drivers signed up, you know, for this program.
Felton Lewis III: [00:16:03] That’s a great idea. Never thought of it. Yeah. We can present it to them that we have x amount of drivers who are in need of this program and they sign a little document. We have that showing that they would love to have.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:21] It right if they had it, they they’d take it, you know, kind of thing.
Felton Lewis III: [00:16:25] Right. Right. So great idea.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:27] Well, that might help you get the momentum you need. So you got to just get in front of the drivers and just offer it and say, hey, if this existed. Would you sign up for this?
Felton Lewis III: [00:16:37] Yeah, well, and that’s the key is how do we get to the drivers? I mean, even though I’m on LinkedIn and I have 30,000 connections, I have very, very, very few Lyft and Uber driver connecting. I don’t know if they use LinkedIn, I don’t know what how do we get to them?
Lee Kantor: [00:16:56] Right. That’s the that’s the secret. I mean. I mean.
Felton Lewis III: [00:17:02] How do we get to them to let them.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:04] Know? Right. Because a Lyft driver or an Uber driver is probably not putting that on LinkedIn because they probably just do this as a side hustle. They have another job that they’re just trying to squeeze in a few hours here and there.
Felton Lewis III: [00:17:17] Correct.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:18] Between their other job?
Felton Lewis III: [00:17:20] Yes, sir.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:21] So that is going to be a challenge. But there might be kind of Facebook groups or other LinkedIn groups for Uber drivers or rideshare drivers where they hang out.
Felton Lewis III: [00:17:33] Okay. We’ll check it out. Check it out.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:36] So any advice for someone who’s starting a brand new association of how to get those initial members? How do you get people kind of engaged with you at the very earliest stages?
Felton Lewis III: [00:17:50] Well, we thought if we go to the big companies, that would be the way to do it, because they have the people. But it hasn’t worked that way.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:00] Not yet. But any anything in your 80 years of of life and the other associations you work with, like how do you get those initial members? Or How do you find those people?
Felton Lewis III: [00:18:12] Well, we have constant contact. We have different types of email. But, you know, then you’ve got to pay for that service. Godaddy the same thing. We have like 12,000 disabled veteran emails. We thought we start out with the veterans and and what they’re asking is exorbitant just to send out emails.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:36] Yeah. I guess that’s how you get them one at a time, right? I mean, there’s no easy way of getting them.
Felton Lewis III: [00:18:41] No easy way to get them. So if some company unless the company said, well, here’s the new program.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:47] Right. If they endorse it and then offer it to their people, then that’s kind of a shortcut. But otherwise, it’s one at a time.
Felton Lewis III: [00:18:55] One at a time. Yes, sir.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:56] So I.
Felton Lewis III: [00:18:57] Appreciate.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:57] If somebody wants to learn more, what’s the best way to get a hold of you?
Felton Lewis III: [00:19:03] On our website, lab references. Dot com or they can email me at fell fl3 at live references dot com or they can call me at 2697198797.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:20] Well, Felton, I mean, you’re fighting the good fight. Best of luck. And thank you so much for sharing your story today.
Felton Lewis III: [00:19:26] I appreciate you, sir.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:28] Thanks, Lee. All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Association Leadership Radio.
Felton Lewis III: [00:19:34] Thank you. Bye bye.