September 23, 2019

California Labor Bill, Near Passage, Is Blow to Uber and Lyft

To nudge forward unions that might be reluctant to endorse a deal they privately favored, Uber and Lyft announced that they would each kick in $30 million for a state ballot initiative next year to try to exempt their drivers from employment status if legislators didn’t do it first.

The governor appeared to pressure labor as well. The head of the state building trades labor council, Robbie Hunter, said he was left off a high-profile commission to study the future of work after receiving an invitation from the governor’s office. Mr. Hunter attributed the snub to his insistence on full employment status for gig workers.

“I was stunned,” Mr. Hunter said. “I do believe they thought I was going to change.”

He did not. On Labor Day, Mr. Newsom appeared to concede that the bill would pass without significant alterations for gig workers, and he endorsed A.B. 5 for the first time. But he urged the companies and labor officials to continue discussing ways “to build paths for workers in our state who want to join a union.”

An Uber spokesman, Matt Kallman, said on Monday: “We’ve engaged in good faith with the Legislature, the Newsom administration and labor leaders for nearly a year on this issue, and we believe California is missing a real opportunity to lead the nation.”

In some ways, the fight may have only begun, with Uber and Lyft likely to keep pushing for a separate measure scaling back some of A.B. 5’s impact in exchange for granting drivers the right to bargain with the companies. Anthony Foxx, Lyft’s chief policy officer, said, “We remain hopeful of reaching a solution that is good for drivers and builds a strong bridge with labor.” Such a bill could emerge from the Legislature next year.

“A.B. 5 is going to pass,” said State Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco, Uber and Lyft’s hometown, who supports the bill. “But I’m confident this issue will be active in the Legislature for years to come.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/09/business/economy/uber-lyft-california.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

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