rideshare

For Uber Drivers, the Choice Can Be Between a Paycheck and Avoiding Infection

One driver wanting to self-isolate was told by Uber that, unless he is diagnosed with COVID-19, he is not covered to get financial assistance.

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Drive and get paid, even if you’re at risk for the coronavirus, or stay home and don’t. It’s a choice Tim Drake says he is being forced to make.

Drake, who has been driving for Uber for two and a half years, and many other people who work for "gig" companies say they feel stuck between making money and staying health.

Since he suffers from underlying respiratory problems, Drake decided to self-quarantine after his doctor told him he was at high risk of getting COVID-19.

"I started recognizing that, due to my own underlying health conditions, I would be in the higher risk groups for not only contracting it but spreading it," he said.

But Drake ran into issues when he spoke with Uber representatives. He was told that, unless he is diagnosed with COVID-19, he is not covered to get financial assistance.

"Yes, it is people’s choice if they want to drive or not, but when it comes down to the bigger picture, that’s really the choice: 'Do you want to earn income or not?'" Drake said.

A spokesperson for Uber said it is looking into Drake’s case and also confirmed that, in order to receive financial help, drivers need to have tested positive for COVID-19, been in contact with some who tested positive or show symptoms of infection.

Like other transportation entities, ridesharing companies are considered "essential services" under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order, according to the California Department of Public Health. But Drake said he is choosing to keep himself and any of his potential passengers safe over getting a paycheck.

"The choice [Uber was] really making us decide between was putting food on our table and be homeless or potentially get sick," he said.

Uber representatives said the company has reached out to the White House, asking for any stimulus package that is released include benefit benefits for independent contractors like their drivers.

But under a new state law that took effect this year, workers like rideshare drivers are classified as employees of the businesses they work for. The law is being challenged in court.

"Uber’s biggest argument is that it is a technology company, not a transportation company," Drake said. "But during this time, drivers are being deemed as essential."

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