Dozens of drivers for Uber and Lyft attempted to shut down streets in San Francisco on Tuesday, demanding the right to form a union and calling on state governments to pass a new bill supporting gig worker rights.
Lyft and Uber drivers from across California came in a 70-plus caravan to speak out in favor of Assembly Bill 5, known as AB5. Lyft and Uber have spoken against AB5, which would classify drivers as employees and enact basic worker protections.
Edan Alva, a driver who lives in Alameda, California and has been a Lyft driver for five years said he has seen his wages go down and costs increase since he began working there. He said he struggles to afford health insurance for himself and his 16-year-old son.
“We are here today to say ‘enough is enough’, that drivers deserve the same rights and protections as employees,” he said at the protest.
“We are here to show we have been organizing for a long time and that we are not going to go away, we will keep fighting until we get what we deserve. AB5 is really the correction of an existing mistake, of being misclassified as contractors. It would simply make it clear that we are employees – that’s the minimum bar of getting what we want.”
“It’s basically people versus wealth. Should executives get more wealth, or should people get fair compensation? The drivers are the ones who create the wealth,” he added.
Carlos Ramos, an Uber driver and organizer, added: “No longer will we stand back while Uber makes a fortune off the backs of workers who are increasingly an afterthought.”
Uber said in a statement that the company repeatedly hears from drivers that they value the flexibility to work “whenever, wherever, and for whom they choose”.
“We believe that independent, on-demand workers should not have to sacrifice security to enjoy that flexibility,” the company added.
California’s state assembly passed AB5 53-11 in May and the proposal has since moved to the state senate’s appropriations committee, for a 30 August vote. If passed, the bill will move to the senate for a vote in September. Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign it into law if passed.
Several presidential candidates have spoken in favor of the proposal, including senators Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
South Bend mayor and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg showed up at the protest on Tuesday. “I stand with gig workers,” Buttigieg said.
“I’m here because, where I come from, gig is another word for a job. That means you deserve protection against sexual harassment. That means you deserve overtime protections – and yes, that means you deserve a union.”