Uber, Lyft and others launch campaign against unions

Dated:March 14, 2022

By Brody Mullins and Ryan Tracy, the wall street journal

UberTechnologies Inc., UBER -4.84% Lyft Inc. LYFT -4.99% and other companies that use independent contractors as drivers are launching a campaign to avoid Democratic efforts to classify their workers as employeeswhich would allow them to form unions.

Companies, which also include DoorDash Inc., DRAW -12.54% Grubhub Inc. and several others plan to run TV and Internet ads in the Washington area featuring workers who say they prefer the flexibility of the independent contractor model to that of a company employee.

“If I want to work 20 minutes a week, or 30 hours, I can do that,” says one worker in the ad. “When I need a day off to study for a big exam, I can do that,” said another.

The new app-based business advocacy effort comes as some lawmakers in Congress and state houses push measures to reclassify their part-time workers from independent contractors to employees who would be eligible for additional benefits and would be permitted join unions.

The industry uses independent contractors to limit labor costs and fees charged to customers. According to industry data, the average app-based worker spends around eight hours a week at work.

“Workers are voting with their feet and flocking to app-based work because it gives them a better work-life balance,” Kristin Sharp, chief executive of the new association, called Flex, said in an interview. . “Our big-picture goal is to make sure people who want to be flexible can do that,” she said.

The group said it plans to spend over $1 million on the ads.

The unions say Uber UBER -4.84% and other gig-economy companies exploit their workers by not giving them enough hours to work to qualify for health care and other benefits.

They have the support of Democrats in Congress and President Biden, who last week State of the Union Address called on Congress to approve the Protection of the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which contains a provision that could reclassify some app-based part-time workers as traditional employees.

“When a majority of workers want to form a union, they shouldn’t be arrested,” Biden said.

the new echoes of campaign the one that Uber, Lyft and others battled in California in 2020.

The California legislature in 2019 enacted a law that created a three-step test to determine whether workers should be considered independent contractors or employees.

The companies responded by qualifying an initiative for the November 2020 ballot to exempt drivers from the law. Uber, Lyft and other supporters have vastly outspent labor groups and other opponents, and the initiative passed with 59% of the vote in the majority Democratic state. Measurement calls make their way through the courts.

The industry has fought other benefits battles in Miami, New York and Massachusetts. Now he is focused on Washington, where Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats are mounting calls to pass the PRO law. The measure would create new labor rules, increase fines for companies that violate labor laws and generally make it easier for workers to form unions.

The House approved the bill last year, but it stalled in the Senate. Labor leaders and top Democrats say they think he could win Senate approval in part because he was endorsed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), a key Democratic vote. which blocked some of Mr. Biden’s other priorities.

The creation of the new industry group shows how the advocacy of Silicon Valley tech companies is changing as the priorities of internet companies diverge.

Some of Flex’s members were formerly members of the Internet Association, a trade group created to give Internet businesses a unified voice in Washington. This group also represented such giants as Alphabet Google Inc. and Metaplatforms Facebook of Inc. The association disbanded last year amid tensions over its members’ conflicting priorities on competition policy and other issues.

A distinct group of companies comprising Break Inc. and Reddit Inc. created his own group in 2020 to lobby against proposed changes to Section 230, a law protecting apps and websites from liability for hosting user-generated content.

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About Michael S. Montanez

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