California is seeking to force Uber and Lyft to reclassify their drivers as employees, according tomedia The Verge, a dramatic escalation of the state’s months-long “struggle” with the zero-hours economy. In May, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined city attorneys in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego in suing Uber and Lyft for arguing that their drivers were wrongly classified as independent contractors and that they should be employees under state AB5 laws that came into effect on January 1.
Now, Becerra plans to file a preliminary injunction to force the taxi companies to reclassify drivers as employees within weeks, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. A spokesman for Becerra did not immediately respond to a request for comment. “Californians who drive for Uber and Lyft lack basic worker protection,” Becerra said in May. “Sometimes it takes a pandemic to shake us and make us aware of what this means and who will suffer the consequences. “
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the AB5 act into law on September 18th, which provides for so-called “ABC tests” to determine whether a person is a contractor or an employee. Legal experts say the law will make it harder for zero-hours economy companies such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to classify their drivers and couriers as independent contractors. And the companies argue that the law poses an existential threat to their business models.
Uber and Lyft have accused the attorney general and their allies of trying to shut down the state’s taxi service. If Becerra succeeds, they argue, hundreds of thousands of drivers could lose their jobs, costs will rise and passengers relying on Uber and Lyft services will face inconvenience. “The vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and we’ve made significant changes to our app to make sure that’s still the case under California law,” an Uber spokesman said. “When more than 3 million Californians don’t have jobs, our elected leaders should focus on creating jobs, not trying to shut down the industry.” “
A Lyft spokesman said California voters should decide the issue. The company, along with Uber, Instacart and DoorDash, is contributing $90 million to a vote in November to offset the impact of AB5. “We think the court should leave it up to the voters,” a Lyft spokesman said. “Trying to force drivers to give up their independence 100 days before the election could put another million people out of work at the worst possible time.” If the bill is approved 100 days before the decision, the damage to millions of people and the California economy is immeasurable, and we will oppose it. “
Before Newsom signed the bill into law, the zero-hours economy company was preparing the ballot initiative as a contingency plan. It is hoped that after a strike with lawmakers and labor groups, these companies can win reprieve by appealing directly to voters. The measure would overturn AB5 and list ride-hailing drivers and other part-time economic workers as independent contractors. According to Ballotpedia, it will also enact labor and wage policies for drivers, including a minimum net income of 30 cents per mile based on the state or city minimum wage; a time limit for allowed work within 24 hours; medical subsidies; and occupational accident insurance and accident insurance. The voting measure will also require companies to develop anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policies.
“This is yet another malicious legal action against drivers, which highlights why we are pushing for this vote,” he said. Stacey Wells, a spokeswoman for Uber and Lyft, said.
Meanwhile, pro-AB5 drivers’ groups plan to stage a protest outside Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s San Francisco home to protest the vote and call attention to the company’s alleged discrimination against customers from non-white communities.