Solidarity Summer is in full swing, as hundreds of MWA drivers led a massive caravan today calling on Uber and Lyft to stop cheating us out of basic workplace protections and drop a their deceptive ballot measure designed to buy their way out of following California law.

Over 150 drivers circled the departures deck and arrivals level at the Los Angeles International Airport today, in an unprecedented show of worker power that brought traffic to a stand still. Rideshare drivers completed nearly 9 million trips at LAX in 2018 alone.

Uber and Lyft maintain contracts that generate millions in revenue for the companies and airports, while drivers are stuck with the consequences of rampant ticketing, over policing, lack of access to employer-provided PPE, and a lack of proper training. Today, drivers called on LAWA officials to use their regulatory power to put in place strong protections drivers need that gig companies refuse to provide.

Drivers completing rides at LAX have faced significant financial and safety issues. Due to a lack of proper training from Uber and Lyft and a lack of guidance from LAWA management, drivers have incurred millions in citations, with the average ticket issued between 2016 and 2019 costing drivers over $300.

“With the COVID-19 crisis, drivers are facing severe economic hardship. For far too many of us, a $300 expense could mean having to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table or paying fines to avoid having our accounts deactivated,” said Mike Robinson, a Mobile Workers Alliance leader and Lyft driver in Los Angeles. “While we’re forced to shoulder this burden, Uber and Lyft are spending tens of millions of dollars on a ballot initiative to exclude themselves from following the law or having to provide us with the workplace protections we are entitled to.”

Additionally, as a result of Uber and Lyft’s continued misclassification of drivers, the companies are able to avoid providing Cal/OSHA compliant restrooms. While we won new portable toilets and hand washing stations at the driver lot, these simply are not enough to meet the high volume of drivers coming through LAX each day, posing a significant public health risk as the country still struggles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

As our Solidarity Summer actions roll on, it’s critical that we keep up the heat! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for breaking updates.

LAX Action June 18

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On Tuesday, more than 200 Mobile Workers Alliance Drivers came together for a virtual meeting to plan how we’re going to fight back against the anti-driver ballot initiative being pushed by Uber, Lyft and Doordash.

Check out the full recap below and watch the condensed meeting video on YouTube.

We kicked the meeting off with a moment of silence in honor of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality, before moving into an intro by MWA organizer Felipe, who explained the current state of play for drivers in LA. He highlighted a few important things:

  • Uber, Lyft and Doordash are going hard for their $110 million anti-driver ballot measure and are already spending millions on advertising.
  • The state of CA is suing Uber and Lyft for violating AB5 and misclassifying drivers
  • June 25th is the deadline for the companies to either pull or modify the ballot measure
  • Mobile Workers Alliance is joining with other driver groups across the state to stage weekly actions in the run up to the 25th to put maximum pressure on the companies

Felipe was followed by MWA organizer Brian, who gave us a rundown of our victories over the past 18 months. You can check out a (non-comprehensive) timeline of those wins at the Stronger Together page or check out Brian’s rundown in this video.

Driver James was up next, who provided a comprehensive rundown of the anti-driver ballot initiative that the companies are sinking millions of dollars into.

“This ballot measure that they’re pushing, which they call the “Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act” is a $110 million dollar middle finger to drivers,” James said. “They are saying to us that they would rather spend over $100 million dollars to rewrite the rules than to give us what we’ve earned.”

James gave us a quick explanation of what a ballot measure is and how it works. The TLDR is that a ballot measure is a piece of legislation that the citizens of California vote on directly on Election Day, bypassing the state legislature and the governor altogether. In order for an initiative to qualify for the ballot, they have to collect a certain number of signatures from registered voters in CA.

The ballot initiative system is great for companies like Uber and Lyft because they can just hire people to collect signatures to get something on the ballot, then flood the state with advertising telling people to vote for their law.

This is obviously not so great for drivers like us who don’t have $110 million to spend on ads. That’s why it’s essential that we stick together and fight back with people power.

James then broke down exactly why this ballot initiative is such a crummy deal for drivers.

  1. The “wage guarantee” in the initiative only applies between when we accept and drop off a ride and doesn’t include expenses and wear and tear. UC-Berkeley crunched the numbers and determined that it would allow the companies to pay us as little as $5.64 an hour.
  2. The proposed “health insurance” is actually a stipend for 82% of a Covered CA Bronze Plan. A bronze plan covers just 60% of medical expenses and includes a $12,000 deductible for a family. A stipend of 82% of a plan that covers 60% of your medical expenses and that you have to shop around for yourself is far cry from what drivers need.
  3. The initiative removes the ability for local governments to regulate these companies. So if cities wanted to create a higher wage or sick days or any other benefit for drivers, they wouldn’t be able to.

James stressed that we can’t be tricked by comparing the ballot initiative proposals with the way things currently are. We need to compare them to the full employee status that we’re entitled to. 

Check out James’ full remarks in the video below.

Next, MWA driver Mike provided us with an update on the California attorney general’s lawsuit against the companies over misclassification.

“This landmark lawsuit seeks to enforce everything we won through AB 5, and to shut down the companies’ misclassification schemes once and for all,” Mike said. “Their continued law breaking – their refusal to comply with AB 5 – could cost these companies millions in fines.”

Mike was followed by driver Jerome, who explained all the work that MWA leaders have been doing behind the scenes to take on the gig giants where it really hurts – their wallets.

For months, we’ve been reaching out to shareholders, government officials and investors to raise awareness of how Uber and Lyft treat their drivers and how their business model not only robs us, but also the public.

“I personally spoke to the board members of two of the largest retirement funds in the country – the California Public Employees Retirement System, and the New York State Common Fund,” Jerome said. “In both conversations, I was able to outline my experiences working full-time for Lyft, and the shared issues all of us face working for these billion-dollar Silicon Valley giants. This comprehensive approach – engaging drivers, investors, shareholders, and the broader public – is key to our success moving forward, and his been a cornerstone of our organizing from the beginning.”

Finally, driver Luz closed the meeting with a call to action, revealing our plans for weekly actions during Solidarity Summer. We’re not going to share those here because we don’t need the bosses to know when we’re coming, but if you want to get involved in the fight, please fill out a contact form and we’ll be in touch!

As Luz said, “As we continue to organize and fight for a better future for all drivers I want to remind us that it will not be easy, and it will not happen overnight. We will not be able to win if we only depend on politicians to help us. Victory will come when WE organize. When WE fight back. When WE build a union that is so powerful that Uber and Lyft will have NO CHOICE but to sit at the table with drivers to negotiate OUR working conditions. I look forward to that day and to seeing you all tomorrow!”

Together with our sisters and brothers at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Mobile Workers Alliance drivers took over the Burbank Uber hub this morning to host a food and PPE drive for gig workers struggling amid the decline in demand for rideshare services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drivers distributed 500 boxes of food, highlighting the urgent need for job stability, fair wages, and other basic workplace protections for drivers.

“It is a shame, though not a surprise, that drivers are struggling to put food on the table while Uber and Lyft spend millions to buy their way out of following the law,” said Jerome Gage, a Mobile Workers Alliance leader and Uber driver in Los Angeles. “But today, we showed just how powerful we can be when we come together. Drivers have and will continue to lead the way to hold these corporations accountable, and we won’t stop until they are.”

Billion-dollar app giants Uber and Lyft have offered little support for drivers suffering in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, a recent survey of California rideshare drivers found that 48 percent of respondents anticipated needing food assistance. Nearly half of drivers, a majority of whom are people of color and immigrants and were already struggling before COVID-19, reported being out of work, with many more relying on publicly-funded programs during the pandemic as platform companies refuse to provide basic pay and the protections required under AB5.

This action is the first of many upcoming actions in our Solidarity Summer, and as we continue to support one another, and put the pressure on Uber and Lyft to pull their deceptive ballot measure, it’s crucial that we have as many drivers as possible!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the most up-to-date news.

Photos from the food bank can be found here.

As of today, the mayor of Los Angeles has ordered that all essential workers (including rideshare and delivery drivers) wear protective face coverings while working and that employers must provide workers with facemasks.

To protect our safety, it is imperative that Uber, Lyft, Postmates and the rest abide by this order and get masks to drivers and that the City of Los Angeles enforce this order and hold these companies accountable.

We sent the following letter to LA City Attorney Mike Feuer this afternoon.

April 10, 2020

Mr. Michael Feuer
City Attorney
City of Los Angeles
James K. Hahn City Hall East, Suite 800 Los Angeles, CA 90012

Re: Enforcement of Los Angeles Worker Protection Order for App-Based Rideshare and Delivery Drivers

City Attorney Feuer,

On behalf of the over 16,000 rideshare and delivery drivers in SEIU 721’s Mobile Workers Alliance, we write today to urge your enforcement of Mayor Garcetti’s Worker Protection Order, specifically with regard to app-based gig employers such as Uber, UberEats, Lyft, Door- Dash, Postmates, and others.

As you are aware, these companies rely on a predatory business model that unfairly misclassi- fies employees as independent contractors in order to skirt their basic responsibilities as employers, and cheat us out of the rights and protections afforded to all workers under local, state, and federal law.

Even after the passage of Assembly Bill 5, which intends to properly classify rideshare, delivery, and other gig economy workers as employees, app-based gig companies have refused to comply with state law, even going so far as to dump $110 million into a deceptive ballot measure aimed at overturning AB 5 in November.

It is with this in mind that we write to share our grave concerns over the health and safety of gig workers during the COVID-19 crisis. With the Safer at Home Order in place, Los Angeles residents are relying on app-based food delivery more than ever before. At the same time, rideshare drivers with Uber and Lyft are transporting essential workers to and from their jobs, including frontline healthcare workers, grocery workers, and those working for city and county governments. To say that gig workers are uniquely vulnerable to infection is an under- statement.

For weeks, even in the midst of the worst public health crisis we’ve seen in decades, our employers have done nothing to help drivers, forcing us to supply our own personal protec- tive equipment, cleaning supplies, and sanitizer.

In the hours since the Mayor’s Worker Protection Order went into effect, gig economy employ- ers have already signaled that they will not comply fully with the emergency order, with Uber communicating to drivers that masks are available by request, and that the company cannot guarantee masks for every driver.

Lyft, on the other hand, has set up a drive-through station where drivers can pick up a very limited amount of sanitizing materials, including one disposable mask and small bottles of disinfectant.

These half-measures on the part of the companies do not meet the guidelines outlined in the Worker Protection Order, and show just how little these Silicon Valley giants care about the safety of their drivers, passengers, and the public at large.

We ask that you enforce the Worker Protection Order for gig economy workers in the City of Los Angeles:

1. Ensure that app-based gig employers provide cloth face coverings to all employees at no cost, as required by the order, and prosecute those companies who fail to do so to the fullest extent of the law.

2. Ensure that app-based gig employers provide access to clean, sanitary restrooms, and provide all necessary sanitizing agents, as required by the order, and prosecute those companies who fail to do so to the fullest extent of the law.

We also ask you to confirm that the City will take no legal action against gig economy workers who are unable to comply with the Worker Protection Order due to their employer’s failure to provide them with the necessary protective and sanitizing equipment, as required by the order.

We are encouraged by the bold steps taken by the City of Los Angeles to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and believe that with swift action, we can ensure that some of the city’s biggest employers will do their part to help prevent the spread of disease.

Thank you,

Mike Robinson, Lyft driver, Mobile Workers Alliance
Armen Oganesyan, Uber and Lyft driver, Mobile Workers Alliance
Leonardo Diaz, Lyft driver, Mobile Workers Alliance
Linda Valdivia, Uber driver, Mobile Workers Alliance

CC:

Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles
Gilbert Cedillo, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 1
Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 2
Bob Blumenfield, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 3
David E. Ryu, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 4
Paul Koretz, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 5
Nury Martinez, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 6
Monica Rodriguez, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 7
Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 8
Curren D. Price, Jr., Los Angeles City Council Member, District 9
Herb J. Wesson, Jr., Los Angeles City Council Member, District 10
Mike Bonin, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 11
John Lee, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 12
Mitch O’Farrell, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 13
Jose Huizar, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 14
Joe Buscaino, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 15
Kathleen Kenealy, Chief Assistant City Attorney
Connie Chan, Deputy City Attorney

Organizing During Corona

Nearly a thousand drivers from Mobile Workers Alliance and We Drive Progress hosted a statewide COVID-19 Response Call on Tuesday to share how the unprecedented outbreak of the novel coronavirus has impacted drivers, outline resources available to drivers and launch a campaign to escalate our demands for better protection from this outbreak from Uber, Lyft and other gig companies.

This was a first of its kind call for our organization and proof that even as the rest of the world shelters in place, we’re continuing our fight for driver rights!

Drivers Rosa Mendoza, Jerome Gage and Hector Castellanos were joined by several allies in our fight, including:

Pastor Cue Jn-Marie of the Church Without Walls
Bob Schoonover, President of SEIU Local 721
Joseph Bryant, President of SEIU Local 1021
CA Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez

Good News Up Top

SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover began the call by congratulating drivers on successfully lobbying their federal legislators to include gig workers in the COVID-19 relief bill. Over the past weeks, drivers have made thousands of calls telling legislators not to leave us behind.

Our efforts worked and drivers are now eligible for unemployment protections outlined in the CARES Act. Still, Uber and Lyft are shirking their duties to drivers.

“Instead of using their vast resources to provide support to drivers during this crisis, Uber and Lyft have refused to follow state law and classify drivers as employees – a move which would immediately provide much-needed protection to every driver in California,” Schoonover said.

What Drivers Are Facing

Rosa, Jerome and Hector spoke emotionally about the challenges they are facing.

“I’m just tired of the situation,” Rosa said, her voice cracking. “I’m so scared to come home and bring a disease or get infected. I have to wait four hours for a passenger. I’m always behind, I don’t have enough earnings. What if I get sick? Who’s going to take care of me? What about other drivers with a family, with people they’re taking care of?”

Jerome echoed her sentiments, with a pointed call out of Uber, Lyft and the rest.

“This moment makes the truth crystal clear. Gig companies do not care about us, they’re sending us out to die to get richer,” he said.

All three spoke about how this crisis affects drivers particularly hard, magnifying existing problems like low wages, no insurance and no sick time, as well as introducing new ones like a drop in rider demand, the impossibility of self-isolating and, most importantly, increased risk of exposure to the disease.

A Word From the Legislature

We were honored to be joined on the call by the author of AB5, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, who had words of encouragement for drivers.

“You feel like nobody cares about you and I want to be clear, this is the reason we passed AB5. In no way could we have anticipated something like the Coronavirus, but we knew that every worker deserves basic labor protections on the job. That’s what AB5 was about and thats how you won that right,” Gonzalez said. “Right now, Uber and Lyft continue to misclassify you. I care deeply about the consequences of that and so do my colleagues in the legislature.”

Gonzalez went on to encourage drivers to file for unemployment in California, as well as from the federal government.

Driver Resources

A large portion of the call was a live Q&A to help drivers access the resources available to them in this time. For a current list, check out our COVID-19 Driver Resources Page, which will be updated as more relief sources come available.

Show Uber & Lyft We Won’t Back Down

The thing that every person on the call returned to was just how deeply Uber and Lyft have failed their drivers. Not only do they exploit us when times are good, they’re only doing the bare minimum during a global crisis. Not only that, but they’re continuing their $110 million campaign to roll back AB5 RIGHT NOW!

The consequences of Uber & Lyft creating an army of underpaid, uninsured, misclassified workers are plain to see for all of us and they’re still spending unimaginable amounts of money (money that we earned them by driving) to fight for that evil system. Enough is enough. Use the form below to send a message directly to Uber & Lyft’s executives and board members. Drivers are putting their lives on the line for these billion dollar companies, it’s time for real relief.

We’ve already sent more than 12,000 messages since yesterday, let’s keep it up!

Ahorita, funcionarios federales están trabajando en una legislación para trabajadores y negocios afectado por la crisis del COVID-19.

Pero porque los choferes esta incorrectamente clasificados como contratistas independientes, hay una posibilidad de que no nos incluyan en ningún Alivio Federal para los empleados. Eso no lo podemos permitir.

Nosotros estamos trayéndoles la comida a la gente, dándoles un aventón al doctor y permitiendo que miles de estadounidenses se queden a salvo y socialmente aislados.

Por favor llama a tus senadores y diles que los choferes necesitan ser incluidos en cualquier Alivio Federal.

Usa este número: 1-877-267-5060 para conectarte con tus senadores.

La línea directa tiene la opción de inglés y español

Esto tiene que decir cuando llame:

Hola, mi nombre es ___ y vivo en la cuidad de ____. Estoy llamado para decirle a mi senador de que cualquier Alivio Federal debe proveeré seguro económico para cada persona no importa su apariencia, de donde son, o el trabajo que hace. La legislación tiene que ser aprobada para ampliar el seguro de desempleo para empleados de franquicias, trabajadores contratistas, y trabajadores de propina a $15 la hora y $2,000 por persona con pagos adicionales en forma de dinero directo.

Es importante que usemos nuestras voces – si no corremos el riesgo de no ser incluidos en ninguna legislación o ayuda.

Right now, federal officials are working on legislation for workers and businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis!

Since drivers are misclassified as independent contractors, there’s a chance that we could be left out of any relief that’s targeted at employees. That can’t happen. 

We’re the ones out here getting meals to people, giving them rides to the doctor and allowing millions of Americans to stay safe and socially isolated.

Please call your senators and tell them drivers must be included in any federal COVID-19 relief legislation!

Use this number: 1-877-267-5060 to be connected to your senators.

The hotline has both English and Spanish options.

Here’s what to say when you call:

Hello, my name is YOUR NAME and I live in CITY. I am calling to let the senator know that any COVID-19 relief package must provide economic security for every person no matter what they look like, where they’re from or what they do for a living. Legislation must be passed to expand unemployment insurance for franchisee employees, contracted workers, and tipped workers – including so-called Gig Workers – at $15 per hour and $2,000 per person with additional installments in direct cash relief.

It’s imperative that we make our voices heard on this. Otherwise we risk being left out of relief.

What do you do when your rights and life come under attack? You stand up and fight back, and that’s exactly what members of the Mobile Workers Alliance (MWA) are doing.

On March 11th, dozens and dozens of Lyft and Uber drivers participated in preventive self-defense classes organized by MWA drivers for drivers in the Los Angeles area. The classes were spearheaded following the reports of rampant violence towards Uber and Lyft drivers, including the violent attack and robbery of MWA member Manuel Ramos in February.

“I was transporting 4 passengers on the freeway when I was attacked by a passenger in the backseat,” said Manuel Ramos. “This attack came out of nowhere and could have caused a really bad accident on the freeway. Thank god I was able to pull over into a gas station and safely get out of the car to call for help,” he added. “When I returned to my vehicle, I noticed that my family’s rent money was missing from the glove compartment.”

A shaken-up Ramos went on leave for three days without pay, despite being attacked on the job. What did Uber do for Ramos? Absolutely nothing with a lasting impact. The passenger can still use the app, but will never be paired with Manuel. For Manuel and his fellow drivers, that’s simply not enough.

“At first I was angry with the passengers that robbed me,” Manuel adds. “Now I’m equally angry with Lyft because they simply don’t care about drivers’ well-being, they only care about their profits. That’s why we’re taking up these self-defense classes. We refuse to be victims.”

Because both Uber and Lyft refuse to comply with California labor laws and properly classify drivers as employees, drivers work without proper workplace safety protections and run the risk of being attacked without adequate recourse like it happened to Ramos.

Like Ramos says, drivers are learning to defend themselves from violent passengers and the Silicon Valley companies that punch them down by denying them their labor rights.

“Today, we learned to defend ourselves from people who try to harm us in our cars and from the companies that abuse and exploit us,” said Uber driver and MWA leader Linda Valdivia.

At the end of the classes, four in-cabin cameras were raffled amongst the self-defense class participants. The drivers went back on the job well-equipped to fend off any attack, and committed to continue standing their ground in their fight to be classified correctly and win a union.

“I hope that we all feel a little more empowered today,” added driver James Wiest at the end of the self-defense classes. “Not just from the lessons the instructor taught us, but because we learned them together.”

“There is power in a union and there is power in working people standing together,” he added.

Los baños, van a cambiar.
Menos de dos semanas después de que lanzamos nuestra campaña de petición y un día antes de nuestra demostración planificada en el aeropuerto, los funcionarios de LAX se pusieron en contacto con MWA para prometer baños adicionales y estaciones de lavado de manos para el viernes junto con una invitación a reunirse para encontrar una solución a largo plazo para el condiciones antihigiénicas en el lote

LAWA Letter

Los conductores de MWA se embarcaron en una campaña de petición el 12 de febrero, para poner un fin a las condiciónes de los baños portátiles en el estacionamiento de LAX. Recolectamos más de 1,000 firmas en las primeras 24 horas.
Si has estado en el lote de LAX, bien conoces el estado de los baños. Si no has visto aquí hay algunas fotos. Toma en cuenta que son asquerosos!

Nasty Toilet 1 Nasty Toilet 2

Obviamente, los trabajadores de oficina de Uber y Lyft no trabajan con condiciones como las nuestras, pero debido a que se niegan a clasificar adecuadamente a los conductores como empleados, tenemos que hacer todo lo posible por la dignidad básica.
Queremos felicitar a los funcionarios de LAX por razonar y trabajar con los conductores, incluso ante la violación y negligencia de la ley de Uber y Lyft.
Esta victoria es solo un paso más en nuestro camino hacia la aplicación de la ley AB5 y un sindicato. ¡Nunca olvides que cuando luchamos, ganamos!

The toilets, they are a-changing.

Less than two weeks after we launched our petition drive and a day before our planned demonstration at the airport, LAX officials contacted MWA to promise additional toilets and handwashing stations by Friday along with an invitation to meet to work out a long-term solution to the current unsanitary conditions at the lot.

LAWA LetterMWA drivers embarked on a petition drive on Feb. 12, in response to the disgusting condition of the portable toilets in the LAX rideshare waiting lot. We collected more than 1,000 signatures in the first 24 hours.

If you’ve been to the LAX lot, you’re already familiar with the state of the toilets. If you haven’t here are some photos. Be warned that they are gross!!!

Nasty Toilet 1 Nasty Toilet 2

Obviously, Uber and Lyft’s office workers don’t have to put up with conditions like this, but because they refuse to properly classify drivers as employees, we have to go to extreme lengths for basic dignity.

We want to commend LAX officials for stepping up and working with drivers, even in the face of Uber and Lyft’s rampant law breaking and negligence.

This victory is just one more step on our path toward AB5 enforcement and a union. Never forget, when we fight, we win!