Activists push Uber & Lyft to provide paid sick leave

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During COVID-19 Outbreak, Gig Workers & SF Supervisors Push Uber, Lyft, and others to Protect Public Health With Paid Sick Leave And More by Complying with AB5

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(San Francisco, CA) In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors introduced a resolution on Tuesday, March 24 aimed at affording workplace protections and benefits like paid sick leave to app-based workers of companies like Uber and Lyft (read the full resolution here). Rideshare workers with driver advocacy groups We Drive Progress and Gig Workers Rising joined San Francisco Supervisors Gordon Mar and Matt Haney, along with Jobs with Justice San Francisco for a press conference announcing the resolution and calling on app-based employers to comply with Assembly Bill 5 (AB5).

Providing Basic Benefits Like Paid Sick Leave, Unemployment Insurance And More

AB5 was the landmark 2019 California state law passed to address the rampant misclassification of workers as independent contractors. Misclassifying workers allows companies to deny people basic workplace protections and benefits like sick leave, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and more.

“If passengers are coughing or sneezing, I worry for my own health but also my livelihood. I wish I could stay home like other workers. I have to risk it because that is the difference between paying my rent and bills. A day off for a driver like me means absolute zero income. As a result, I'm cutting down on food and restricting myself as much as possible. We need immediate financial assistance from our employers Uber and Lyft. We have worked so hard amid this horrific time to provide essential services, but at what risk?” -Saori Okawa, Uber driver and leader with We Drive Progress.

“Drivers like me are meeting different people every day each time someone gets into our car. We are on the frontlines of this public health crisis, yet we get no health protections from Uber. We’ve waited too long for the companies to do the right thing, it’s time for the government to step in to protect not just workers but also the general public.” - Edan Alva, Lyft driver and organizer with Gig Workers Rising

Helping Gig Workers Access The Benefits

The resolution specifically urges the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) to implement enforcement procedures to ensure these companies comply with AB5. It also calls on the City Attorney Dennis Herrera, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and State Labor Secretary Julie Su to help gig workers access the benefits they’re entitled to under AB5, such as paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and more.

“Paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and family medical leave aren't just nice to have, they're the difference between workers being able to feed their families or not. And during this pandemic, they’re essential for public health,” said District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar. “Denying workers their rights during a public health crisis is immoral, irresponsible, and we cannot and will not stand for it.”

“Gig workers need our support now more than ever. Their health and economic well-being are both very vulnerable right now,” said District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, whose District is comprised of many app-based companies like Uber, Postmates, Doordash, and Instacart.  “COVID-19 is a global pandemic unlike any we’ve seen in a very long time. Our gig workers, especially our rideshare drivers, are at great risk of contracting the virus. To ensure they can protect their own health and provide for themselves and their families, gig workers must have full access to benefits like paid sick leave, disability, family leave and unemployment insurance,” said Haney.

“The COVID-19 crisis has underscored how essential worker protections like paid sick leave are to keeping workers and the public healthy. Our local labor movement helped San Francisco become the first city in the country to pass a paid sick leave law in 2006. Gig companies like Uber, Lyft and Doordash who are headquartered here in San Francisco cannot hold themselves above the law. We’re calling on our City Attorney and enforcement agencies to enforce our labor laws and hold gig companies accountable for putting workers and all of us at risk.” -- Kung Feng, executive director of labor-community alliance Jobs with Justice San Francisco.

The resolution urges:

  • the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to establish rapid enforcement procedures to address misclassification of San Francisco employees and ensure local compliance with Assembly Bill 5, and to proactively communicate to all employers their obligations under local law to provide benefits such as paid sick leave to their employees; and, be it
  • the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement for the purposes of enforcement to base each app-based employee’s eligibility for paid sick leave under San Francisco’s Administrative Code Chapter 12W
  • the Department of Public Health place minimum health and safety guidelines for TNC and food delivery drivers  who continue to operate during this pandemic which includes demanding the companies providing sanitary supplies and the workers rights under Workers Compensation should they come into contact with a customer who has been infected,
  • The City Attorney Dennis Herrera  to seek immediate injunctive relief to prevent the misclassification of San Francisco workers as they seek to access basic workplace rights like paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and benefits provided under the San Francisco Health Care Security Ordinance
  • the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to (i) seek immediate injunctive relief to prevent the misclassification of California workers as they seek to access basic workplace rights like paid sick leave and  unemployment insurance, and (ii) issue guidance to all District Attorneys, City Attorneys, and County Counsels regarding their authority to seek rapid injunctive relief to ensure workers can access workplace benefits under current state law.
  • Labor Secretary Julie Su to provide guidance for accessing benefits like disability insurance, paid family leave, and unemployment insurance for misclassified workers

This comes amid a series of actions taken by drivers recently, including a letter Gig Workers Rising sent to lawmakers last week urging officials to enforce AB5, and nearly two hundred individual letters to state legislators sent by We Drive Progress members.

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Jacob Wolinsky is the founder of ValueWalk.com, a popular value investing and hedge fund focused investment website. Jacob worked as an equity analyst first at a micro-cap focused private equity firm, followed by a stint at a smid cap focused research shop. Jacob lives with his wife and four kids in Passaic NJ. - Email: jacob(at)valuewalk.com - Twitter username: JacobWolinsky - Full Disclosure: I do not purchase any equities anymore to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest and because at times I may receive grey areas of insider information. I have a few existing holdings from years ago, but I have sold off most of the equities and now only purchase mutual funds and some ETFs. I also own a few grams of Gold and Silver

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