Veena Dubal: Why Uber and Lyft are taking a page out of big tobacco’s playbook in labor law battle
The Guardian – UK
Uber and Lyft are waging a scorched-earth regulatory battle to avoid providing basic benefits to their drivers, now considered essential workers, in their largest US market: California. In response to a lawsuit by the California attorney general, Xavier Becerra, a judge found the companies’ drivers to be employees and ordered Uber and Lyft to act accordingly – including by providing a living wage, unemployment benefits, state-mandated sick leave and full reimbursements for expenses like cleaning and personal protective equipment. The companies have responded by threatening to lay off tens of thousands of workers. Their goal is to extend the crisis until November, when Proposition 22, a referendum written and sponsored by the gig companies, will be voted on. Prop 22 would create a special exemption from California employment laws just for these companies, while also pre-empting local regulation. The companies have taken a page from big tobacco’s political playbook to avoid complying with wage laws and basic aspects of the social safety net in exchange for the labor of their majority immigrant and people-of-color workforce.