Gig workers are being excluded from the stop working/ shelter-in-place announcement just made for the Bay Area, according to the new public health order, meaning thousands of drivers and delivery workers will continue to work as coronavirus spreads. The order, which affects more than 6.7 million people, prohibits non-essential travel but will not apply to workers with gig companies like Instacart, Postmates, DoorDash, Amazon Flex, Uber, and Lyft.
The language of the order states that essential business that are excluded include “other private transportation providers providing transportation services necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized in this Order,” and the city of San Francisco’s website clarifies that rideshare will be available. The same order applies to the five other Bay Area counties.
Gig workers have become frontline responders, often driving people to the hospital or delivering food to those who have been quarantined, like the elderly, disabled, or sick. Workers with these companies will be working more than ever, ensuring that those who cannot leave the home have adequate provisions for the coming weeks.
Yet these drivers have no sick days, no protective equipment, and no guidance about how this lockdown will affect them. They have received none of the benefits afforded other frontline workers, like paid sick time and paid family leave.
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What the lockdown means
Gig companies and California policymakers are failing these workers who are on the frontlines ensuring that people have what they need during this crisis.
Enforcement officials in California must take immediate steps to fully enforce AB 5 and ensure gig workers have access to benefits like paid sick leave, disability, family leave and unemployment insurance.
Gig Workers Rising sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom and other State officials including Attorney General Barrera and Julie Su, Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency last week demanding that officials throughout California immediately begin enforcing AB 5, which would give gig workers relief by appropriately classifying drivers.
Already, drivers have suffered tremendously:
“Last week my income went down 30% because of decreasing demand. I was notified by MediCal last week that I no longer qualify and my insurance coverage will end this month. And I am under so much stress, I’m barely sleeping. I can’t focus and I don’t know if I am going to be able to pay my bills.” – Yash A.
Should gig workers stop working?
“I drive for a company that provides rides to children going to and from school. Since schools have begun closing down, I am losing a substantial amount of income. I am one bad month away from losing my home. My home is literally all that I have in this world. If I lose it, I do not know what will happen. It would be disastrous for me and my children. AB 5 must be enforced to the fullest extent of the law to protect the health and livelihood of gig workers! In addition, I would like to see a moratorium on all loans and financial obligations during the virus.” – Kitty N.
“Sickness is not an option for me because not working is not an option. If I do get sick, I will have to continue to work or I will lose my ability to exist – it’s not just income. Before the coronavirus outbreak, I managed to pay my bills on a monthly basis, with no room for error. Here are the things at risk: paying rent, my car payment, my health insurance, and of course food. If I have to stop working without any safety net I would lose all of these things.” – Edan A.
“As a food delivery driver, I am constantly interacting with people and public places, picking up food and delivering it to people’s homes, putting myself and others at risk. If I get sick and can’t work, I won’t be able to support myself and my family, and I will lose my housing.” – Mostafa M.
“Right now I’m working as many hours as I can. I’m trying to make as much money as possible in case I have to stop working. I’m really tired and scatter-brained. Once I stop working my resources end. I don’t know what that is going to mean for me.” – Carlos R.