At the heart of San Francisco’s tremendous and controversial growth over the past decade has been tech-fueled companies that rely on cheap and on-demand employees to do much of the work — the so-called gig economy. Depending who you talk to, it either makes it easier to get around the city by hopping on a scooter or hailing a ride via Lyft or Uber, or it makes it impossible to get around the city because the sidewalks are now cluttered with abandoned scooters and the streets are filled with out-of-town drivers circling high-traffic areas hoping to pick up customers. With the 4–1 passage out of the state senate’s Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee in July of Assembly Bill 5, California could be moving toward forcing the gig economy companies to redefine their drivers and similar workers as employees, with potentially major implications for the workers’ income and benefits and the companies’ expenses.
Organized protests took place in July in support of the bill. In an advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle, drivers representing an effort to unionize gig workers demanded a seat at the table in negotiations over AB 5, a bill that would restrict the ability of companies to categorize workers such as rideshare drivers as independent contractors. “It’s time for Uber and Lyft to do right by us,” Linda Valdivia of the Mobile Workers Alliance and Rebecca Stack-Martinez of Gig Workers Rising state in the ad. “That means extending all drivers the living wages and basic workplace protections we deserve. It also means an end to putting the cost and the risk of doing your business on us.”
There were also organized protests in opposition to the bill. The Los Angeles Times reported that Uber and Lyft paid some of their drivers up to $100 to attend an anti-AB 5 rally in Sacramento on July 9. The Vice news service called AB 5 the bill that “could destroy Uber’s unsustainable business model,” and with AB 5 having already passed the Assembly, the companies are clearly very worried it will get the okay in the Senate, too, and then head to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has so far not spoken out on the bill.
News tips? Email: [email protected]