Uber, Lyft, Do­or­Dash threaten bal­lot fight over gig-worker law

As­sem­bly Bill 5 would clas­sify driv­ers as em­ploy­ees, a change pushed for by la­bor unions

The Peterborough Examiner - - Business - ALE­JAN­DRO LAZO AND ELIOT BROWN

SAN FRAN­CISCO—The bat­tle over a Cal­i­for­nia bill that could up­end the busi­ness mod­els of com­pa­nies that rely on gig work­ers in­ten­si­fied Thurs­day when ride-shar­ing giants Uber Tech­nolo­gies Inc. and Lyft Inc. and de­liv­ery ser­vice Do­or­Dash Inc. threat­ened to spend a com­bined $90 mil­lion on a bal­lot mea­sure if a deal can’t be reached this year.

Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers have been weigh­ing a bill, known as As­sem­bly Bill 5, that would clas­sify driv­ers for those and other sim­i­lar com­pa­nies as em­ploy­ees, en­ti­tled to bet­ter wages and ben­e­fits, a change pushed for ag­gres­sively by la­bor unions. The bill would cod­ify a 2018 Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court de­ci­sion that re­stricts when work­ers can be clas­si­fied as in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors.

On Thurs­day, Lyft and Uber of­fered a set of pro­pos­als they de­scribed as a com­pro­mise: a min­i­mum wage of $21 an hour for time spent driv­ing and pick­ing up cus­tomers, a fund to pay for ben­e­fits such as paid sick leave, and the abil­ity for work­ers to or­ga­nize a group that could ne­go­ti­ate with nu­mer­ous em­ploy­ers of driv­ers all to­gether, rather than in­di­vid­u­ally.

“We re­main fo­cused on reach­ing a deal, and are con­fi­dent about bring­ing this is­sue to the vot­ers if nec­es­sary,” said Lyft spokes­woman Adrian Durbin.

Do­or­Dash is sup­port­ing its own set of sim­i­lar pro­pos­als.

If the cur­rent ver­sion of the leg­is­la­tion be­comes law, and no other leg­is­la­tion ad­dress­ing their con­cerns passes, the com­pa­nies said they would put their re­sources be­hind a mea­sure on next year’s bal­lot fea­tur­ing the pro­pos­als they are back­ing.

The bill passed the state as­sem­bly in May, 59-15, and faces a key vote in a Se­nate com­mit­tee on Fri­day.

Both houses are dom­i­nated by Democrats.

Gov. Gavin New­som, a Demo­crat, hasn’t sig­naled whether he would sign the cur­rent bill if it passes. The gov­er­nor has said his staff is ac­tively try­ing to bro­ker a deal be­tween the op­pos­ing sides be­hind the scenes.

The threat to go to the bal­lot box—a com­mon tac­tic in Cal­i­for­nia when high-stakes leg­is­la­tion threat­ens ma­jor in­ter­est groups— was crit­i­cized by a fed­er­a­tion of state unions and As­sem­bly Bill 5’s lead backer.

“Cal­i­for­nia has a long his­tory of Wall Street bil­lion­aires pump­ing a for­tune into bal­lot mea­sures to fur­ther erode the mid­dle class,” said Assem­bly­woman Lorena Gon­za­lez, au­thor of the mea­sure.

“This an­nounce­ment lays bare the real mo­ti­va­tion of multi­bil­lion-dol­lar gig com­pa­nies,” said Cal­i­for­nia La­bor Fed­er­a­tion Ex­ec­u­tive-Sec­re­tary Trea­surer Art Pu­laski.

“They never cared about their driv­ers or work­ers. The only thing they care about is their bot­tom line.”

The com­pa­nies have said they be­lieve their mea­sures help driv­ers by keep­ing work­ers’ abil­ity to start and stop work­ing as they please.

While the mea­sure would af­fect a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries, the un­prof­itable ride-hail­ing com­pa­nies would take a di­rect hit if the mea­sure passes as cur­rently writ­ten. Lyft and Uber to­gether are cur­rently los­ing bil­lions per year.

JUSTIN SUL­LI­VAN GETTY IM­AGES

Dozens of Uber and Lyft driv­ers staged a protest out­side of Uber head­quar­ters in sup­port of Cal­i­for­nia As­sem­bly Bill 5 and to or­ga­nize a union for ride-share driv­ers.

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