Re: I know many people who work so-called "gig economy" jobs here in California.
"That's one of the things I've always found confusing over the "gig economy" and the contractor vs employee "debate". This is mostly rhetorical, and I could have entirely misunderstood something about it."
The distinction, which is multi-variable, has to do mostly with how much control the person doing the work has. A contractor is given a goal and they goes about getting to that goal via whatever method they think will work the best using their own tools, setting their own schedule. If a taxi company is dictating too much, the driver has a casual job more than being an independent contractor.
Big "gig" companies such as Lyft and Uber seem to be focused on ways of setting up a company in a way to absolve themselves of the responsibilities of an employer. They are skating very close to the line between employee and IC. Since they also routinely give the government the finger when it comes to things like commercial licensing and insurance that are required for traditional taxi companies, they aren't making any friends with lawmakers.
I see these new taxi companies as complete failures. The don't own cars, they don't pay employee costs and taxes yet they still lose massive amounts of money every year. Their headquarters are in expensive buildings in expensive city when by their very nature they could be anywhere. While it's too big a task for a government to protect people that never learned math from being fleeced for every thin, drivers aren't trained about the economics of their "business" and wear out their cars at a faster rate than they are bringing money in to replace it when it's finally kaput. That they are doing this at a grand level is what draws attention. If they were just a local company taking advantage of people, it would fly under the radar.