Coronavirus exposes U.S. Uber, Lyft drivers’ lack of security internet

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(Reuters) – As unbiased contractors, U.S. ride-hail drivers for Uber (UBER.N) and Lyft (LYFT.O) benefited from hovering journey demand and versatile work hours.

FILE PHOTO: Uber and Lyft driver Adama Fofana sprays disinfectant in his automobile in New York Metropolis, New York, U.S., March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Joe Penney/File Picture

However because the coronavirus brings giant components of the nation to a halt, drivers and firms are dealing with the draw back of an ambiguous contractor mannequin. Many Uber and Lyft drivers rely on the businesses, however below U.S. labor legislation they don’t have the protections granted to common staff.

Below stress to ease the plight of its roughly 1.three million U.S. drivers and meals supply employees, Uber has seized on the disaster to advance its marketing campaign for a bigger overhaul of U.S. employment legislation to allow it to supply extra advantages whereas sustaining employees’ contractor standing, modifications it has requested from state and federal lawmakers for a number of years.

Uber Chief Govt Dara Khosrowshahi on Monday urged U.S. legislators to make use of the present disaster as a possibility to implement modifications to present employment legislation by creating what the corporate calls a “third method” in between employment and contractor standing.

A spokesman for U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer on Wednesday mentioned a large federal coronavirus support invoice will embody reforms to make unemployment insurance coverage accessible to self-employed and gig employees, including that extra particulars can be introduced all through the day.

Uber’s proposal drew sharp criticism from labor unions.

“A ‘third method’ is only a euphemism for creating a brand new underclass of employees with fewer rights and protections,” mentioned Artwork Pulaski, govt secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation.

In a press release, Uber mentioned financial forecasts meant extra individuals will want versatile, unbiased work sooner or later, which was why it wished to boost the usual for that work.

Uber’s unique advantages plan didn’t embody unemployment insurance coverage, the safety drivers search most below present circumstances. A driver advocacy group in New York on Tuesday referred to as on Uber and Lyft to contribute to emergency unemployment pay.

Uber didn’t touch upon the shortage of unemployment insurance coverage, saying solely that its proposed mannequin included “prolonged advantages for unbiased contractors.”

Lyft in a press release mentioned the overwhelming majority of its employees drive fewer than 10 hours per week and 80% have full or part-time jobs providing some stage of advantages. Lyft mentioned it was preventing for drivers to obtain support within the federal stimulus package deal, however didn’t touch upon Uber’s push for authorized modifications.

VULNERABLE GIG WORKERS

Demand for ride-hailing journeys in current weeks has declined by as a lot as 70% in some U.S. cities and lots of drivers instructed Reuters they stopped driving over fears of getting uncovered to the virus or infecting others.

Makela Edwards, an Uber driver from Oakland, California, loved the regular pay and versatile hours driving afforded after leaving her job as a public college instructor on the finish of 2018. Now, demand for Uber rides has all however dried up.

“This coronavirus has actually lifted the lid about how susceptible I’m and the way we as gig employees are being ignored of the dialogue,” Edwards mentioned.

Some drivers mentioned they deliberate to use for unemployment advantages no matter their contractor standing, hoping for extra flexibility below the present circumstances.

Others mentioned they’ve switched to meals supply as a extra dependable supply of earnings with roughly a 3rd of the U.S. inhabitants ordered to remain house. Uber on Wednesday mentioned the variety of individuals signing as much as ship meals in america and Canada doubled final week from the week prior however didn’t present extra particulars.

Uber and rival Lyft have established funds to compensate drivers and supply individuals recognized with COVID-19 or positioned in quarantine by well being officers for as much as 14 days.

Uber mentioned funds have began to exit, however declined to share extra particulars. Lyft didn’t present any particulars on the fee of these funds.

The businesses have additionally mentioned they might distribute hand sanitizers. However each have closed their native hubs, locations the place drivers can go to obtain in-person assist or use the lavatory, and drivers have no idea the place to obtain disinfectants.

FILE PHOTO: Uber and Lyft driver Tammie Jean Lane, 60, holds a bottle of hand sanitizer through the world outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Picture

Uber in a press release mentioned suppliers had prioritized orders for healthcare employees, with its orders being moved down the queue a number of occasions. The corporate mentioned it will talk a distribution plan in gentle of the hub closures, however didn’t present extra particulars. Lyft didn’t touch upon disinfectants.

Most employees’ advantages, together with medical insurance and employees’ compensation, are hooked up to an employment relationship, mentioned Pauline Kim, an employment legislation professor at Washington College in St. Louis.

Offering contractors with added advantages corresponding to unemployment insurance coverage requires a change or the passage of a brand new legislation, Kim mentioned, including that the present disaster highlighted the hole in safety between gig employees and common staff.

Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; extra reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bangalore; Modifying by Nick Zieminski and Marguerita Choy

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