Uber, Lyft Drivers Seeking Protections Rally in Support of AB 5

Uber and Lyft drivers held a rally Tuesday outside of Uber's San Francisco headquarters to support new state legislation that could convert drivers from gig workers to employees.

Assembly Bill 5, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), would require companies to designate most independent contractors, or gig workers, as employees and provide them with benefits like unemployment, health insurance and workers compensation.

According to the organization Gig Workers Rising, which helped organized Tuesday's rally, companies' increasing reliance on gig workers has many of those workers living in uncertainty, without basic protections afforded to most employees.

"We're here for ourselves, our rights, that's been taken from us by Uber and Lyft. We're asking for a living wage and we're asking for benefits," said Omar A., who has been driving for both Uber and Lyft for more than five years.

According to the more than one dozen drivers who rallied Tuesday, last week drivers from both Uber and Lyft received an email from the companies regarding AB 5.

"They are trying to force the drivers to sign a petition against AB 5," Omar A. claimed. "Actually AB 5 is supporting the drivers and protecting the drivers. That's what we're fighting for."

"No amount of fear, pressure, or underhanded maneuvers will stop us from fighting for what we deserve. We will continue to hold Lyft and Uber accountable," said Rebecca Stack-Martinez, who also drives for both Uber and Lyft.

According to Uber, last week it did send an email to drivers to let them know that "recent changes to California law could threaten your access to flexible work with Uber." The message was linked to a petition, asking the drivers to sign it "to protect ridesharing and driver flexibility.

Uber officials said that while the company wasn't lobbying for or against AB 5, it did believe there was a better solution than the bill to grant gig workers protections.

Similarly, Lyft confirmed it also sent an email to drivers last week regarding AB 5.

"Legislators are considering changes that could cause Lyft to limit your hours and flexibility, resulting in scheduled shifts. We're advocating to protect your flexibility with Lyft, in addition to establishing an earning minimum, offering protections and benefits and giving drivers representation so that you have a voice in the company," the email read. The message encouraged drivers to reach out to lawmakers to in order to keep their gig jobs.

During Tuesday's Board of Supervisors' meeting, supervisors Gordon Mar and Rafael Mandelman called for a hearing on the status of the city's gig workers. The hearing is set for June 28 at the Supervisors' Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee.

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