Uber and Lyft Are Recruiting Their Own Drivers to Lobby Against Drivers' Rights

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“Gig economy” tech companies that rely on armies of “independent contractors” are panicked at a bill being considered in California that could force them to classify their workers as actual employees. Now, they’re busily enlisting their own workers to lobby against... improving the lives of their own workers. Read the emails below.

The California bill, AB5, would tighten legal standards and make it much harder for companies to classify workers as “independent contractors” rather than employees. The implications of this for companies like Uber, Lyft, and others would be profound—hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new costs for employee benefits, and a huge infusion of power into the hands of workers who have few legal rights so long as they are not employees. To try to head off the bill, companies themselves are pushing an alternative proposal that would dangle some job improvements like “portable benefits” for workers, but would keep them as independent contractors. Key to the success of this strategy is for the companies to be able to make the case that the workers are actually against the bill. In service of this, a misleading internal PR campaign is in full swing.

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Earlier this month, Postmates ran a full page newspaper ad featuring the names of workers that it said were in favor of the company’s alternative proposal. (Some of those workers later told us they didn’t know their names would be used in such an ad.) Now, Uber and Lyft are in the midst of their own employee recruitment campaign. Drivers from both companies forwarded us emails the company just sent out to workers for this purpose. This one, from Uber—with the subject line, “Protect your flexibility”—went out yesterday.

Help keep your ability to work when and where you want

Your access to flexible work could be at risk if lawmakers in Sacramento do not take action in the next few weeks.

If continuing to control when, where, and how you work is important to you, then it is absolutely critical to raise your voice now and let lawmakers know how you feel.

Some lawmakers are suggesting that all drivers should become employees of Uber—whether or not they would prefer it. Instead, Uber is advocating for a brand new policy that would protect your access to flexible work while also:

*Ensuring you earn a minimum of approximately $21 per hour when driving with a passenger or going to pick them up, including costs for average expenses, while always preserving your ability to make more

*Providing access to robust new benefits, such as paid time off, sick leave, and compensation if you’re injured while driving with Uber

*Empowering drivers to have a collective voice with rideshare companies, and establishing a right to elect your own representatives with power to influence decisions about your work

Uber believes that this innovative new model will both protect drivers’ ability to work on their own terms, while maintaining the flexibility you’ve come to depend on. But to make this possible, California needs to update the law!

Lawmakers need to hear that flexible work is important to you. Sign the petition below and visit our website to show your support and hear from other drivers about why they want to keep their flexibility.

The website the company set up, hilariously called IndependentDriver.org, casts this entire issue as a fight for driver “independence” and “flexibility,” and solicits videos and stories from drivers to bolster the company’s case—PR gold. The petition they ask drivers to sign echoes the language in the email, and includes this suggested text for drivers to send to lawmakers:

“Please take action to avoid putting ridesharing as we know it at risk in California. Drivers should be able to choose when and where they work, and Californians value ridesharing services that provide reliable and affordable transportation options throughout the state. We need new rules that would protect rideshare drivers’ flexibility while providing workers with access to new benefits and earnings protections. I am proud to sign this petition to help protect ridesharing in California.

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[Your personal story will be added here.]”

Likewise, Lyft sent out the following email yesterday to its drivers, with the subject line “Act now to protect rideshare in California.”

Help protect rideshare in California

In a few days, California lawmakers will vote on AB 5, a bill that could significantly impact the way Lyft operates in California.

As it’s currently written, AB 5 may require Lyft to make all drivers employees, which the majority of drivers have said they do not want, and might lead to hundreds of thousands of fewer rideshare drivers. As a result, you could pay more, wait longer, or risk losing reliable access to rideshare altogether.

After talking with thousands of California drivers, we’re proposing a revision that protects their earnings and their flexibility. Our proposal includes additional workplace protections for drivers and a minimum earnings floor.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board says our proposal, “would offer more help to part-time workers than reclassifying them as employees and robbing them of the flexibility and opportunities that attracted them to the work in the first place.1"

Our ask? Help us make sure AB 5 represents the best interests of our community. Make your voice heard with a quick call urging Governor Gavin Newsom and lawmakers to take a leadership position in fixing AB 5. We’ll connect you with your representative and provide information on how best to #FixAB5.

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Strangely, neither of these company emails explain to drivers the fundamental rights and power they would gain by being classified as employees. An oversight, no doubt.

If you are an Uber or Lyft driver who would like to share your thoughts on this issue, email me.

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About the author

Hamilton Nolan

Senior Writer. Hamilton@SplinterNews.com