More than 2,000 California ride-hailing drivers have filed wage claims against Uber and Lyft since February, alleging the companies have illegally treated them as independent contractors and owe them more than $630 million in lost wages, expenses and damages.
By calling attention to the influx of claims, the drivers, organized by Los Angeles labor group Rideshare Drivers United, hope to pressure the state to enforce Assembly Bill 5, a law that established stricter standards for companies that treat workers as contractors rather than employees.
The drivers, along with members of the Transport Workers Union, plan to caravan outside the offices of the California labor commissioner as well as the Employment Development Department in Los Angeles and San Francisco on Thursday to demand that the state enforce AB 5 so they can qualify for unemployment insurance benefits and receive the wages they say they were wrongfully denied through misclassification.
Stacey Wells, a spokeswoman for the App-Based Drivers Services Coalition, which represents both Uber and Lyft, said stepped-up enforcement of AB 5 would only hurt workers in the gig economy. “Forcing app-based rideshare and delivery drivers to become employees — which the vast majority have repeatedly said they do not want — will result in the widespread elimination of work for hundreds of thousands of Californians at the very worst possible time,” Wells said in a statement.
Some groups have called for the suspension of AB 5, arguing the law makes it difficult for freelancers to find work while stay-at-home orders remain in effect. But groups including Rideshare Drivers United say the coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for employee benefits and protections to ease the fallout from an economic downturn. Those protections include paid sick leave and unemployment insurance.