With a California bill looming that would force Lyft and Uber to recognize their workers as employees rather than contractors, the two companies opted for an unconventional counter-measure last week when they offered to pay their drivers up to $100 to lobby against the motion on their behalf.
The ride-share companies sought willing drivers to demonstrate outside the state Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday ahead of the Senate labor hearing on Assembly Bill 5.
Those taking part would be seeking an arrangement that would allow drivers to continue operating as an independent contractor with some new benefits that would typically only be reserved for contracted employees.
In return, drivers were promised to receive an extra $25-$100 in additional pay within the next five days of the protest, a bounty said to be helping to cover the ‘travel, parking, and time’ of the volunteers, the LA Times reported.
The ride-share companies sought willing drivers to demonstrate outside the state Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday promising up to $100 in ‘expenses’ (pictured: one driver in support of Assembly Bill 5 calls Uber and Lyft corrupt for attempting to pay counter-protesters)
Those taking part would be seeking an arrangement that would allow drivers to continue operating as an independent contractor with some employee benefits
Drivers were notified about the incentive via an email from the I’m Independent Coalition, a California Chamber of Commerce funded group, in addition to a number of other on-demand companies and groups.
The coalition has been working in close association with the Lyft and Uber to amend the proposed Assembly Bill 5 and assisted with the organisation of Tuesday’s rally.
‘We want to thank you again for taking time to attend the State Capitol Rally on July 9,’ the email obtained by the Times read.
‘Your voice had an impact and the Legislature heard loud and clear that you want to keep your flexibility and control over your work! Please expect a driver credit in the next five business days for your travel, parking, and time.’
The coalition has since confirmed paying those who turned up to protest, but doubled-down on the fee being paid for expenses and said the figure never exceeded $100.
In addition, Uber also offered its drivers a $15 lunch voucher and invited them, their family ‘and anyone you know who also has a stake in maintaining driver flexibility’ to attend the rally, through an in-app notification. Meanwhile Lyft provided its drivers with $25 to cover parking.
According to the coalition, around 500 people headed the call to rally on Tuesday for both sides.
In return, drivers were promised to receive an extra $25-$100 in additional pay within the next five days of the protest to cover ‘travel, parking and time’ (pictured: Author of the bill, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, speaks outside the state Capitol on Tuesday)
Drivers were notified about the incentive via an email from the I’m Independent Coalition, a California Chamber of Commerce funded group, in addition to a number of other on-demand companies and groups
Driver groups and union members who turned up to voice their support of the bill were also compensated for some of their costs by other groups, such as Gig Workers Rising (GWR), as well.
GWR offered free transportation from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Independent driver group Rideshare Drivers United self-funded a van rental for their participants.
The California Labor Federation also provided breakfast and lunch, while Union Staff who organised the rally were paid for their work.
For months the debate of employee classification between drivers of both firms has been prevalent, with many still divided on the subject.
Both of the companies have been using their respective apps to reach-out to their drivers directly on the issue, sending petitions for drivers to sign to protect the ‘flexibility’ of their working arrangement.
During a rally outside Uber HQ in June, some drivers said they believe they were tricked into signing the petition because of how it was sent to them as an in-app notification.
Driver groups and union members who turned up to voice their support of the bill were also compensated for some of their costs by other groups and unions
The utilization of their mobile applications has allowed both companies to forgo the typical challenges of mobilizing a demonstration, despite the fragmented work-space both companies have – without a central space for drivers to meet and communicate.
Speaking to the Times, Ken Jacobs, the chairman of UC Center for Labor Research and Education said that Uber and Lyft urging their workers to get political on their behalf comes as part of a ‘worrying trend’.
‘While it is always good for people to engage in the legislative process, the power relationship inherent in employment raises concerns about coercion,’ Jacobs said.
‘That is, do workers believe they will gain an advantage on the job for participating, or fear retaliation if they don’t? It is especially worrisome in the context of employer threats over what actions they will take if the AB 5 passes.’
The Senate committee on Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement ultimately voted to allow AB 5 to advance to the appropriations committee and then to the Senate floor.