CALIFORNIA — Today, in response to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s announcement of a lawsuit against Uber and Lyft in partnership with the city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco to hold the companies accountable for violating California law, ignoring workplace rules and refusing to pay payroll taxes or contribute to the state unemployment fund, Hector Castellanos, who drives for Uber, and Jerome Gage, who drives for Lyft, issued the following statements.

Castellanos is a member of We Drive Progress, a movement of app-based workers in Northern California. Gage is a member of the Mobile Workers Alliance, a group of Southern California drivers.

“Uber and Lyft are avoiding all responsibility and shifting their costs to drivers and taxpayers. They are taking advantage of a pandemic, just like they’ve been taking advantage of drivers and taxpayers for years. When I was in an accident driving for Lyft, I needed shoulder surgery and couldn’t work for eight months. Without employee benefits like workers’ compensation, my daughter had to drop out of school to help us keep our home. Now that I’m quarantined because of COVID-19, it’s been the same struggle for my family all over again,” said Hector Castellanos, a Bay Area driver and leader with We Drive Progress. “Even before this pandemic, I was barely making enough to get by because Uber and Lyft did everything they could to avoid paying a livable wage or providing access to health insurance. By holding Uber and Lyft accountable, Attorney General Becerra is taking action to protect drivers and taxpayers, who are on the hook to support struggling drivers because these companies refuse to follow the law like other businesses.”

“Uber and Lyft are not above the law, but for years they’ve acted as if they are. During the coronavirus pandemic, their greed and disregard for Californians, drivers and customers has reached an all time high. I am terrified of getting sick as passengers cough and sneeze in my car constantly. Uber and Lyft have abandoned drivers and passengers by failing to provide personal protective equipment,” said Jerome Gage, a Los Angeles Lyft driver and leader with Mobile Workers Alliance. “I am unable to stay home. If I don’t drive, I have no income. I have no choice. If I don’t risk my health, I won’t have money to eat and pay my bills.”

SACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom clarified during his daily press briefing that gig workers can receive both unemployment insurance and ensure proper classification pursuant to AB5, despite misleading statements by rideshare companies.

Armen Oganesyan, a  leader with Mobile Workers Alliance from Los Angeles who drives for Uber and Lyft, and Jose Galindo, a We Drive Progress leader from San Jose who drives for Uber and Lyft, issued the following statement in response:

“Thank you Governor Newsom for clarifying that when we file for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, it will not upend the protections and benefits won for workers under state law AB5.  Lyft and Uber’s misclassification has left us without the most basic workplace protections we have a right to under California law, including access to unemployment insurance, sick pay, and safety equipment. Meanwhile, these same companies are asking the federal government for bail outs while refusing to pay into unemployment insurance all in the same breath. They should immediately drop their deceitful ballot measure and instead use those millions to do right by us instead of putting the burden on taxpayers. We are united 20,000 drivers strong across California and will continue our fight to hold Uber and Lyft accountable to pay their fair share, comply with AB5, and drop their disingenuous ballot initiative. Free rides for Uber and Lyft on the backs of hard working California taxpayers must end here.”

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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