Gig workers' fight unlike Taxicab against status as independent contractor not ending soon
Livelihood of many ride share company drivers have plummeted and never been more uncertain due to ongoing pandemic especially since Uber and Lyft are doing everything to fight court rulings that legally classify drivers as employees. American Taxi Cab of Augusta continuously follows these events as they are unfolding. Many ride hail drivers have found it extremely difficult making ends meet due to drastic reduction of customers created by Covid19 and end in unemployment benefit from federal government for gig workers. The battle for these drivers to be classified as employees is constantly growing.
Amid the pandemic, Uber and Lyft drivers are more precarious than ever. Even as the companies dodge court rulings, the battle for drivers to be legally classified as employees is growing.
In 2018, a Black Car Limo driver killed himself by self inflicted gun shot infront of Manhattan city hall to draw attention to plight of drivers. In a Facebook post, he warned “All that is needed now for a total disaster is a serious downturn in the economy reducing riders and there will be at least half million people hit hard. Downturns always come.”
Two years later, amid a pandemic, the economic downturn has arrived. A recent report from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) shows a 75 percent drop in the number of taxi drivers; with 108,880 who drove in March dipped to 30,675 in June. That same month, drivers, including those on other ride-hailing apps, logged 251,696 trips per day compared to 750,000 daily trips in February. The result for drivers in New York City has been depressed earnings and unemployment.
Long before the recent ruling in response to the pandemic, ride-hailing workers in New York were already eligible for unemployment benefits. In 2018, the New York State Unemployment Insurance Board ruled that Uber and Lyft drivers along with other “similarly situated” drivers were eligible for unemployment. Neither Uber nor Lyft have complied with the ruling and have declined to contribute to the state unemployment insurance fund on workers’ behalf, “a sum that would likely be worth at least tens of millions of dollars”
Despite these successful rulings at the state level, Uber has found support from the federal Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board, both backing the company’s contention that ride-hailing workers are independent contractors. Although these findings are not binding on state agencies, which oversee unemployment benefits, the intended effect is to create a labor and unemployment law rigmarole in which ride-hailing workers are in a constant state of limbo, perpetually fighting back through a flurry of lawsuits and demands for enforcement of existing laws.
Despite the challenges posed by a legal strategy against a company with deep pockets and a fierce public relations arsenal, drivers are continuing to organize and working to define themselves as employees. Doing so means refusing Uber’s business model that obfuscates the employment relationship in exchange for a rolling parade of marketing terms — entrepreneur, customer, partner, and for legal purposes, independent contractors.
The struggle for employment status at Uber and other ride-hailing companies are a potent example of a potentially transformative reinvigoration of the labor movement.
Last year California’s legislature introduced AB 5, to close the independent contractor loophole and bolster ride-hailing drivers’ worker protections. AB 5 is modeled after a Dynamex Operations West v. California Supreme Court ruling, which required businesses to use an “ABC Test” to determine whether a worker was an employee, according to the following three criteria: 1) the worker must be free from the company’s control; 2) perform work outside the company’s core business; and 3) run an independent business. Uber and Lyft failed this test according to the ruling in California last month.
According to Gerald Friedman, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, “the reaction of Uber and Lyft exposes the true nature of their business model, and why it would be so dangerous if more widely adopted. Their success depends on offloading the social cost of providing income security onto the individuals, their workers, [or] the state through some other social insurance program, such as food stamps or Medicaid.”
The incentives for companies like Uber are too hard to resist: “shifting employment to other parties allows an employer to avoid mandatory social payments (such as unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance or payroll taxes) or to shed liability for workplace injuries by deliberately misclassifying workers as independent contractors
Khosrowshahi would like people to believe that Uber is in the grip of immutable forces and the company, like its drivers, has its hands tied: “Uber is ready, right now, to pay more to give drivers new benefits and protections. But America needs to change the status quo to protect all workers, not just one type of work.” Either American companies protect all workers or leave Uber alone. Either drivers choose their rights and protections afforded to them as workers or the flexibility of independent contractors.
Drivers admittedly do sign-up to drive for Uber and other ride-hailing apps because of the flexibility these platform transportation companies afford them.
Meanwhile, when looking for cabs around Augusta GA, call American Taxi Cab of Augusta at 706 993 7948