Uber, Lyft drivers to rally in Los Angeles as possible ride-hail shutdown looms

LOS ANGELES (KUSI) – A group of Uber and Lyft drivers are expected to hold a rally at Los Angeles International Airport Thursday as the ride-hailing companies prepare to halt operations statewide due to a legal battle over classification of its workers.

The drivers, organizing with the Mobile Workers Alliance, plan to gather at 9600 Will Rogers St. in Westchester at 10:30 a.m. then drive to the LAX-It lot at the airport. The drivers will be passing out masks and other safety equipment as part of the gathering.

Uber and Lyft officials have threatened to shut down their ride- hailing services in California at midnight Thursday night in response to a court ruling requiring drivers to be classified as employees instead of independent contractors. The companies have been fighting the change, which comes as a result of the passage of Assembly Bill 5 that took effect Jan. 1.

San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez authored AB 5, and it was co-authored by Mayoral candidate Todd Gloria.

In an online blog post Thursday, Lyft officials confirmed that it will halt California operations unless an appeals court intervenes.

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“This is not something we wanted to do, as we know millions of Californians depend on Lyft for daily, essential trips,” according to the post. “For multiple years, we’ve been advocating for a path to offer benefits to drivers who use the Lyft platform — including a minimum earnings guarantee and a healthcare subsidy — while maintaining the flexibility and control that independent contractors enjoy. This is something drivers have told us over and over again that they want.

“Instead, what Sacramento politicians are pushing is an employment model that 4 out of 5 drivers don’t support. This change would also necessitate an overhaul of the entire business model — it’s not a switch that can be flipped overnight.”

Uber officials also notified drivers this week that it would halt operations in California Thursday night barring intervention by an appeals court.

“We know that riders rely on Uber to get around, and drivers rely on the Uber app to earn income,” according to the company. “We wanted to let you know that this is a possibility, so you can plan accordingly.”

San Francisco-based Judge Ethan P. Schulman ruled this month in favor of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and the city attorneys of San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco in a lawsuit alleging Uber and Lyft have misclassified their drivers, preventing them from receiving “the compensation and benefits they have earned through the dignity of their labor” such as the right to minimum wage, sick leave, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation benefits.

Schulman stayed his Aug. 10 ruling for 10 days to allow the companies time to appeal.

The companies, however, have said a wholesale switch of drivers from independent contractors to employees to adhere with the court order and AB5 cannot be done so quickly. The companies contend in part that classifying the drivers as employees would force drivers to work standard shifts and hours, instead of their current ability to work when they want.

According to Lyft, that switch would result in 80% of its drivers losing work, while the others work standard scheduled shifts.

Uber and Lyft are also working to combat AB5 by sponsoring Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that, if approved by voters in November, would allow ride-hailing drivers to work as independent contractors.

Categories: California News, Local San Diego News, Politics