Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a letter Monday called for President Trump to assist independent contractor, gig economy workers during the Covid-19 crisis. Khosrowshahi also called for a “third-way” classification between employee and independent contractor for gig workers such as drivers.
“While I recognize that the Administration and Congress have many pressing issues before them, I urge you to act quickly to provide protections for independent workers, and, in your ongoing efforts, to consider legislative action on a ‘third way’ that would update our labor laws to remove the forced choice between flexibility and protection for millions of American workers,” according to the letter.
Khosrowshahi announced the letter in a tweet Monday.
Khosrowshahi also noted in the letter that 1.3 million Americans work using Uber’s platform. And the company is already offering up to 14 days of financial assistance to active drivers and delivery people who are diagnosed with Covid-19 or placed in quarantine. Uber is also working to provide drivers with free disinfectant supplies.
Khosrowshahi said current law — which defines workers as either employees or independent contractors — represents a dilemma for Uber. Making the contractors employees would provide more social protections, but it would eliminate a key value proposition: flexibility.
“Instead of true flexibility — where workers need not report at a certain time or place, can start or stop working at the tap of a button, and can work on multiple platforms simultaneously — driving or delivering would come to resemble the kind of shift-based work that many people cannot fit into their lives,” Khosrowshahi wrote.
Khosrowshahi said he also asked lawmakers to make companies such as Uber provide new benefits and protections for independent contractors going forward.
Khosrowshahi’s suggestion of a third category didn’t sit well with California state Rep. Lorena Gonzalez, the backer of California’s AB 5 law that makes on independent contractor classification more difficult.
“During a time when workers in this country are facing unprecedented economic uncertainty and hardship, this dangerous proposal would undoubtedly lead to a race to the bottom as other companies also seek to shift their existing workforces into this substandard category,” Gonzalez said in a statement.