On Wednesday, Rideshare Drivers United and the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) released an online Wage Claim tool for Uber and Lyft drivers to submit claims for stolen wages and unpaid business expenses.
"The companies are blatantly violating law, ignoring AB5. We drivers are left holding the bag with no protections and criminally low pay,” one Lyft driver said in a press release by Rideshare Drivers United (RDU) and the Transport Workers of America (TWU). "This is about correcting what they have been stealing from us — and enforcing the law."
AB5 is the California state assembly bill that simply codifies a test that determines if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Since going into effect at the start of this year, app-based employers have refused to comply with the law and pledged to fight it with a $110 million ballot initiative.
For years, companies like Uber and Lyft have been successful in misclassifying employees as contractors and denying them a minimum wage, overtime, paid sick leave, health insurance, and other benefits, to keep costs down and prop up a profitability narrative. This past year, however, the tide has begun to turn.
In San Diego, a judge issued an injunction suggesting Instacart may have to reclassify its workers as employees and in San Francisco, lawmakers are calling for the emergency enforcement of AB5 to finally end the illegal misclassification of gig workers. In the states of New York and California, gig workers have won the right to claim unemployment benefits and sick days, but still face entrenched resistance from companies like Uber and Lyft.
The Wage Claim tool streamlines the process of submitting a claim to the California Labor Commission, allowing drivers to see how much they are owed based on their earnings and operating expenses (gas, repairs, etc.). A San Francisco Uber driver and RDU member said in the press statement: "This is just looking at paying the basics—minimum wage and expenses. We need the State of California to back us and enforce this law. Why should drivers not be covered by basic laws around work standards?"
The gig economy has done long-lasting harm to drivers not just in San Francisco, but across the country. In New York City, Uber and Lyft bypassed regulations meant to increase driver pay and reduce congestion by instituting strict quotas that pushed drivers to essentially live in their cars. Across the country, the refusal of app-based employers to permanently give workers benefits such as sick paid leave, health insurance, or even a minimum wage have introduced a massive public health risk. At the end of the day, the Wage Claim is another tool to help drivers fight back against an industry that has always refused to compensate their labor fairly, but always been eager to exploit it.