Washington State Passed a Surprising New Gig Worker Law

James Childers says he really enjoys his job driving for Uber and Lyft in Spokane, a city in Washington State. But since he started working for ride-hailing companies in 2017, he’s seen the percentage of drivers in each fare slip. Once, he said, three-quarters of every ride went into his pocket, and now companies using the formula can see drivers making as little as $9 an hour before tips are sometimes lower. state minimum wage.

But Childers only joined the Drivers Union – an advocacy group affiliated with the local Teamsters labor union – after a difficult passenger’s accusations of racism prompted him to temporarily leave the Uber app. (The company was pleased when he showed it a camera footage of the incident, he said.) “Uber and Lyft don’t care,” he said. “They have other drivers waiting in the wings.” The company declined to comment on the specific case.

Now Childers is hoping that the new state law governing ride-hailing drivers, signed Thursday by Washington governor Jay Inslee, will give drivers more rights to companies and pay That’s at least the same as it was five years ago. The billit’s the result of negotiations between Uber, Lyft, and the local Teamsters affiliate, maintaining drivers’ independent contractor status in the state — and protecting the companies’ core business models. call a car.

Drivers across the state will receive new rights. They will accrue sickness pay and receive minimum wage guarantees based on the time and distance they spend on each trip, although the guarantees will only apply to the time they carry or pick up passengers. . Drivers typically report that they spend between 40 and 60 percent of the time unoccupied. They can also choose to use the new 15-cent passenger fee to fund a driver resource center, which could provide recourse for those hit by the company’s app. But drivers won’t get the full range of benefits that traditionally come with being an employee, including healthcare. And ride-hailing companies still won’t close unemployment insurance programs, a factor that has frustrated many drivers during the pandemic. when the trip suddenly runs out.

In a statement, Ramona Prieto, Uber’s head of policy in the western US, said the bill allows drivers to “be independent while achieving historic new benefits and protections.” “. Jen Hensley, Lyft’s head of government relations, said the law gives drivers “the flexibility, independence, benefits and protections they want and deserve”.

At 11 a.m. Thursday, the newly appointed Labor Union President of the National Study Group, Sean O’Brien, publicly called for the state governor to veto the bill, saying it would open up standards that could erode existing workers’ rights in other sectors.

The local chapter of Teamsters, which helped draft the bill, disagreed. “Uber and Lyft drivers – like all workers – deserve a labor movement that will respect their right to self-determination to set their own priorities, stand with them in the struggles fight and never give up the fight for equity and justice,” union secretary-treasurer John Scearcy said in a statement.

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