Gig Economy

Unions Urge NY To Offer Gig Workers More Protections

gig worker Uber protest

Unions in New York are petitioning the state to change its laws to include employment protections for gig economy workers, similar to a bill recently passed in California, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday (Sept. 16).

New York’s wage and hour laws currently don’t apply to workers classified as independent contractors, which is the case for those who drive for app-based rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. Independent contractors are also not protected by the state’s workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.

“We think this is really a core fight about what the future of our economy will look like and whether we will be moving forward in a society where new technology won’t be used to degrade people’s standards,” Larry Engelstein, secretary-treasurer of 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, told the news outlet.

The bill passed in California would re-classify workers as employees instead of independent contractors unless companies show otherwise. The Assembly and Senate already passed the proposed bill and Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated he was going to sign it into law.

Uber and Lyft have voiced opposition and said such regulations would negatively impact both customers and drivers.

New York City rideshare drivers have more buffers than those in California because of regulations enacted by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. Benefits include a guaranteed minimum wage of $17.22 after expenses.

“Once you have protections under state law, you, as a sector of workers, get to enjoy the universal strength of millions of workers across that state,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.

Staten Island State Sen. Diane Savino is planning to hold a hearing about the issue on Oct. 16. 

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash are planning to spend $90 million to bolster a ballot initiative that would make them exempt from the California bill. Uber is going a step further and has pledged it will litigate misclassification claims from drivers. 

Analysts have forecast that companies affected by the bill would likely pass the cost burden onto consumers, which could lead to a possible 30 percent price hike for rides.

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