The status of gig workers in the US has been quite controversial so far. Platforms like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and others are basically new things in the world. Therefore, the rights of the workers may not be completely stated in US law. Meanwhile, the November’s election leads to some of the gig companies to fight for the rights of their workers. Uber is one of them.
There is a story shared by Jason Schaal, one of the Uber drivers living in Minneapolis. Last month, when he was just sitting at home and checking his phone, there was a message from Uber, the platform where he works. The subject line of the message said, “Make your voice heard.” The rest of the message said that the US Department of Labor was evaluating some rules. One of them is regarding the determination of the independent status of gig workers. Schaal and other workers in Uber were asked to comment on the plan of employees monitoring software.
Schaal has many reasons to choose to be a gig worker as his job. As information, he doesn’t only work in Uber but also in other platforms; they are Lyft, Instacart, and Shipt. He said that the main reason why he prefers the job is because of the flexibility. He is able to balance other jobs. And even if they just want to have a holiday, it is also easier to do. Sure, money is also an important point here. Schaal and his fellow workers can gain extra money from this job. That’s why; many people are currently interested in being a gig worker whether full-time or part-time.
The message from Uber came around 12 days before the ride-hailing company’s victory in California. Aside from the national election in the country, a similar election will also be conducted independently by the company. The independent election is mainly with a purpose to change the workers’ status to be independent contractors, not employees. This way, they can get some other benefits including health insurance. However, the realization seems to still be difficult based on some factors; internally and externally. If most of the workers agree with the new status to give, Uber will push it nationally along with other gig platforms.
A Possibility to Win
The most important question is, is there a big possibility to win? By seeing the tendency in the California vote, it shows that there is a possibility to win. It is possible that the demands from the gig companies to win over the current law and other regulations.
Some factors are behind this for sure. First of all, the demand to change the workers’ status is a good and fair thing. At least, it is not only for the benefits of the company but also the welfare of the workers. Support from people, in general, are mostly in their hands. Second, Uber and other similar companies are currently not small companies. They have money to influence the economic development of the nation.
Interestingly, Uber is not the only company that conducts a vote to get support from its workers. Previously, some other companies including and Lyft have done the same thing although with different actions. The main purpose is to approach the labor union as well as some relevant parties like the state regulators, governors, and state officials. When California functions well in this matter, it can be a good sample of how the gig workers must be treated nationally.
On Wednesday, some platform companies; Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Doordash, and Postmates launched a coalition from Washington DC, namely the Alliance of Apps-Based Workers. The purpose of the alliance is to keep the independence of the workers. It refers to a part of Proposition 22 about how to educate the officials about how the independent workers should be as well as to promote state policies that support on-demands economy development. The alliance is also established to prompt the congress to think more ambitiously in modernizing the law mainly related to labor.
Additionally, Lyft has launched a political action committee to work on the law of the independent contractors in Illinois and New York. Even the company has established an Illinois PAC in June and donated around USD 1.2 million to achieve the purpose. Based on the gig workers in the state, the company has sent a letter, bought digital advertisements, and donated to 50 official candidates for the campaigns to support them in the November election. Even to make it look more dramatic, most of the PAC webs are empty. There is only a sentence, “We’re fighting for Illinois workers and their right to independence.”