The Bill That Could Undo Uber Passes California's Senate Appropriations Committee, 5-2

Illustration for article titled The Bill That Could Undo Uber Passes Californias Senate Appropriations Committee, 5-2
Screenshot: CA Senate

AB5, the contentious California bill that would upend the gig economy model of Uber, Lyft and other tech companies, moved a step closer to becoming a law.

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First introduced into the state Assembly in January (and passing some months later, 53 to 11), AB5 would likely force gig companies to reclassify their workers as employees rather than independent contractors—something those companies have fought, and continue to fight, vigorously to resist.

Rideshare companies have propped up an interested group in the state—the I’m Independent Coalition—to try to convince drivers that being a contractor without the right to overtime pay, healthcare, or other benefits, is preferable. Largely they attempt to equate non-employee status to working hour flexibility, which, as my colleague at Jalopnik Aaron Gordon points out, is utterly unfounded. This coalition has taken heat for allegedly paying drivers to protest AB5, while the companies themselves have urged their workers to sign petitions against the bill.

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Most recently, Uber, Lyft, and Doordash have committed to spending a combined $90 million to oppose this legislation, while publicly offering a “compromise” to drivers in California of $21 per hour while on a trip. While that might at first sound generous, when you run the math, it works out to around minimum wage.

Drivers themselves have been no less vigorous in their defense of AB5. Gig Workers Rising and the Mobile Workers Alliance organized a multi-day “caravan” which, among other actions, blockaded the street outside Uber Headquarters for over an hour this week, demanding “AB5 and a union.” (As contractors, currently, rideshare drivers are limited in their ability to join in collective labor actions, both legally and practically.)

The bill will now move to a full Senate vote, likely sometime next month.

“We are working on a solution that provides drivers with strong protections that include an earnings guarantee, a system of worker-directed portable benefits, and first-of-its kind industry-wide sectoral bargaining, without jeopardizing the flexibility drivers tell us they value so much,” Adrian Durbin, a senior director of communications at Lyft told Gizmodo. “We remain focused on reaching a deal, and are confident about bringing this issue to the voters if necessary.”

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We’ve reached out to Uber for comment and will update if we hear back.

Updated with comment from Lyft

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Senior reporter. Tech + labor /// bgmwrites@gmail.com Keybase: keybase.io/bryangm Securedrop: http://gmg7jl25ony5g7ws.onion/

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DISCUSSION

I’m of the perspective that these companies have a far broader impact than just their attempt to redefine the concept of employee and employer. These companies have been benefiting off of public infrastructure while contributing negatively to both traffic congestion and safety.  Consequently non-Uber/Lyft drivers actually contribute to these companies coffers and suffer the delays caused by these drivers following the apps directions without good judgement.

It’s a rare day that an Uber or Lyft doesn’t randomly stop somewhere in front of me to pick up or drop off passengers on roads that shouldn’t be stopped on. I’ve seen drivers cut across lanes of traffics following their apps in defiance of common sense or safety. If a driver exercises poor judgement and follows an app instead of common sense the liability of the action is exclusively on them. That is they’re responsible for the ticket, not Uber or Lyft. There is no accountability for these companies.

Part of this may result from the distinction between taxi drivers and Uber drivers in urban areas. Taxi drivers are required to know their routes and tend to be local which may not be the case for Uber drivers.

I’d like to see better regulation of driver behavior with the consequences shared by both driver and the company. This would discourage bad driving and encourage the companies to have better selection and enforcement. It would also not effect whatever portion of drivers do abide by traffic regulations.