• American Taxi Cab of Augusta

Uber, Lyft drivers want state to enforce AB5 and get back wages

Just as it is for taxi cab companies, Uber and Lyft drivers did not become employees when AB5, California’s landmark gig-work law, took effect Jan 1. The ride-hail companies are battling to keep drivers as independent contractors rather than converting them into employees, as the law envisions.

On Wednesday over 100 Uber and Lyft drivers statewide are escalating the matter by filing wage claims with the state Labor Commissioner’s Office, The Chronicle has learned. They are seeking to be classified as employees and reimbursed for back wages, overtime and expenses for the past three years — amounts that for some drivers add up to over $100,000 each.

“Here we are a month into (AB5) and we don’t see big enforcement coming,” said Nicole Moore, who drives for Lyft in Los Angeles and serves on the organizing committee of Rideshare Drivers United. That statewide group, which numbers about 10,000 Lyft and Uber drivers, including a couple of thousand in the Bay Area, was behind this week’s action, which they are naming the “People’s Enforcement of AB5.”

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AB5 and the 2018 California Supreme Court decision called Dynamex that it codifies make it harder for companies to claim that workers are not employees. Uber, Lyft and other gig companies like DoorDash and Postmates fiercely resist reclassifying their freelance workers, which would add about 30% to their labor costs. The companies say it would also destroy the flexibility that they and workers rely on.

Many drivers don’t want to be employees, said a spokeswoman for Protect App-Based Drivers & Services, which Uber and Lyft asked to speak on their behalf about the wage claims. Backed by $110 million from Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart, the group seeks a ballot initiative to keep drivers and couriers as independent company

Groups of drivers will present their claims at state labor agency offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles a

“If a large group of workers (from a single company) file wage claims, that’s a trigger to send to the Bureau of Field Enforcement to investigate widespread systemic violations,” said Paola Laverde, a spokeswoman for the Labor Commissioner’s Office, which has created a fact sheet about AB5 classification.


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