Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash will spend $90 million fighting to keep drivers as contractors

By Michael Grothaus

Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash–companies that have raked in billions on the backs of workers that don’t have legally protected minimum wages, guaranteed sick days, or traditional health benefits–have announced they will spend almost $100 million fighting legislation in California that attempts to designate those workers as employees instead of independent contractors, reports the New York Times.

Known as Bill 5 and working through California’s Legislature right now, the bill would require ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to treat their drivers as employees. Doing so would require the companies to pay workers a legal minimum wage, as well as offer health benefits. The bill was sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat from San Diego, and it’s a bill that has terrified Uber, Lyft, and Doordash, who say it would pose a fundamental threat to their businesses.

So instead of using the billions of dollars they rake in every year to simply pay their workers a decent living wage, the companies those workers have built are now spending $90 million on a ballot initiative that would exempt them from the new law. As Gonzalez pointed out on Twitter, it’s disingenuous of those companies to pony up tens of millions to fight the proposed law instead of just using that money to better the lives of the workers that enable their services to run.

The companies say that their ballot initiative would provide drivers with more benefits (including $21 per booked hour) while allowing them to retain their contractor status. An Uber spokesperson sent the following statement:

“Right now, California lawmakers and labor leaders have a historic opportunity to dramatically improve the quality and security of independent work, strengthen the 21st-century labor movement, and protect our innovation economy by acting on the proposal Uber has proudly set forth: a guaranteed minimum earnings standard that would provide stability for drivers while allowing them the flexibility to earn more and work when, where and for whom they choose; access to robust portable benefits like sick leave and injury protection; and — for the first time in the modern history of the labor movement — real sectoral bargaining rights for drivers, giving them a voice in the decisions that affect their livelihoods. While we continue to advocate for this progressive framework, circumstances are forcing us to plan for legislative inaction by laying the groundwork for this initiative.”

A vote on the bill is expected by mid-September, before the legislative session ends. However, if the bill passes Uber’s chief legal officer, Tony West, told the New York Times the company will continue to litigate its driver employment claims. “Just as we have done for the last decade, we will litigate these cases.”

This post has been updated with input from Uber.

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