NY wants ‘gig worker rights’ to travel east

Stephon Johnson | 9/12/2019, 2:56 p.m.
California’s state government’s slated to pass a bill that would make workers of app-based companies like Uber and Lyft full ...
Customer riding Uber YouTube

California’s state government’s slated to pass a bill that would make workers of app-based companies like Uber and Lyft full employees of said companies. New York’s state government and labor movement want to repeat that feat here.

California’s Assembly Bill 5 would be the signature achievement for labor on the West Coast.

“Existing law, for purposes of unemployment insurance provisions, requires employers to make contributions with respect to unemployment insurance and disability insurance from the wages paid to their employees,” reads the bill. “Existing law defines ‘employee’ for those purposes to include, among other individuals, any individual who, under the usual common law rules applicable in determining the employer-employee relationship, has the status of an employee.”

Yesterday, a coalition that includes Uber, Lyft, Postmates and DoorDash sent a letter to California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez opposing an amendment to the bill that allows big cities to sue in order to enforce it. The letter claimed the amendment could lead to “politically motivated” action and “may harm workers.” The coalition said it would also spend tens of millions of dollars next year to exempt themselves from AB5.

“The technology companies represented by this coalition, specifically app-based rideshare driving, app-based food and grocery delivery, and other freelance work, have been conspicuously excluded from the legislation’s text, and targeted by the bill, we do not believe an exemption and return to Bordello is the best future path to our industries.”

Gonzalez took to Twitter to chastise the coalition and noted that the tech giants might have ulterior motives.

“These gig companies don’t want enforcement,” said Gonzalez on Twitter. “Why? Because at least one came to my office and said they’d just continue to litigate it & settle. No one should be above enforcement of wage theft.”

The bill goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

So what happens to companies like Lyft and Uber who have built their company off gig workers?

“We would likely have to exert more control over drivers, telling them where to work, how to work, and who they can work for,” read an online statement from Uber. “Uber would likely hire far fewer drivers than we currently support, and we’d likely have to require a minimum number of hours per week. Scheduling and rigid shifts would become the norm, and Uber would likely prevent drivers from working for other ride share companies.”

“This would likely reduce the scope of where Uber operates and would prevent drivers from working at times or places where the number of drivers outstrips the demand for rides (e.g., in a quiet suburb at odd hours),” the statement continued.

Uber officials said it would stop drivers from signing once drivers outstrip demand in a quiet neighborhood during off-peak hours. Both Uber and Lyft warned riders in places devoid of transit that they could completely lose service.

Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ SEIU and member of New York City’s Do It Right Employment Classification Test (DIRECT) coalition, said that New York needs to follow in California’s footsteps.