May: Drivers Stage Caravan Protest Over Uber’s Labor Practices
Over 100 Uber and Lyft Drivers are staging a caravan protest at Uber’s San Francisco headquarters to demand Uber to comply with the AB5 law by making Drivers into employees and quit treating them unfairly as contractors. They want the companies to pay into the state's unemployment insurance fund and drop the ballot initiative it proposed along with Lyft and DoorDash that aims to retain gig workers and Drivers as independent contractors
“Uber, Lyft and other gig companies are continuing in the same path of abusing and completely taking advantage of workers while putting them at risk,” rideshare driver and organizer with Gig Workers Rising Edan Alva told TechCrunch. “The thing is, it’s never been clearer than during these times how benefits, sick days and unemployment benefits are absolutely critical for workers, especially for workers who are considered essential and are the most vulnerable in society overall. What they earn immediately goes to sustaining themselves and their families.”
A recent survey in San Francisco found 45% of gig workers can’t afford a $400 emergency payment without borrowing and 78% of gig workers are people of color.
Drivers want to make it very clear to the new public shareholers, retail investors, and major stakeholders that when they invest in the company, they are promoting the exploitation of Drivers and consequentially "become part of the problem,” said by Edan Alva. Alva has driven for Lyft for the last 6 years and been a major voice in the Driver demonstrations in California. He added that they will shine the light on them in the same way they shine the light on Uber and Lyft.
If Uber and Lyft were to classify their drivers as employees, they would instanly have to contribute to the state and federal unemployment funds. According to a recent study by UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education, Uber and Lyft contributions in California would come out to $413 million in additional funding based on the wages of drivers from 2014 to 2019.
Only a few weeks ago CA Attorney General Xaview Becerra ordered Uber to convert all their Drivers into employees and this protest has come shortly after. The AG, along with along with city attorneys from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, filed a lawsuit asserting Uber and Lyft gain an unfair and unlawful competitive advantage by misclassifying workers as independent contractors.
The suit argues Uber and Lyft are depriving workers of the right to minimum wage, overtime, access to paid sick leave, disability insurance and unemployment insurance.
“We are incredibly ecstatic that the AG recently decided to follow through and enforce AB 5,” Alva said. “But Uber and Lyft are still trying to eliminate legislation that provides workers those rights. It’s such a level of entitlement and disregard to human lives. It’s good the state of California is going after these companies. From the perspective of the worker, I feel like we as workers need to come together and we need to send consistently and relentlessly a very clear message that this is unacceptable.”
Though there are drivers on both sides of the AB5 ballot and shortly after hte lawsuit, the group behind the anti-AB 5 ballot initiative, Protect App-Based Drivers & Services, said the suit “threatens to eliminate rideshare and delivery services.” This group is mostly funded by Uber, Lyft and DoorDash. In August, each company put $30 million into the initiative. Since then, the initiative has gathered support from thousands of drivers, according to the group.
“When I saw what this initiative was, I just saw it as a win-win,” rideshare driver Jim Pyatt told TechCrunch. “In terms of the insurance, guaranteed income — how could I go wrong in supporting that.”
Beyond AB 5, however, drivers protesting today are also concerned about the lack of masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectants being made available to them. Both Uber and Lyft have begun taking some steps to provide drivers with personal protective equipment. But not enough was being done before Alva ultimately decided to stop driving in April.
“By the time I stopped working for Lyft, I was making $5 an hour,” he said. “There was no point in putting myself at risk and at the same time earning that little. If they invest half of what they invest on trying to repeal AB 5, I’m sure our workers would have been well-equipped at this point.”
Uber first announced its financial assistance policy in March. At the time, only drivers who were diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in quarantine by a public health authority were eligible. Uber has slowly expanded this to include delivery Drivers who are being forced to quarantine because of pre-existing conditions that can cause serious illness from COVID-19.
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