A bill guaranteeing ride-hailing workers new benefits passed the Washington state house on Wednesday. It was backed by an unlikely partnership: Uber, Lyft and the Teamsters Local 117 union.
The bill represents a compromise between these parties. It solidifies benefits such as paid sick time, workers' compensation, a process to appeal account deactivations and protection against retaliation. But it also classifies employees as independent contractors. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart — companies that rely on gig workers for their business — have poured millions into laws allowing them to continue to classify gig workers as independent contractors. They won the California Proposition 22 fight and are gearing up for battle in Massachusetts.
According to LaborNotes, Teamsters Local 117 Vice President Brenda Wiest wrote to House representatives in a Feb. 22 email that "This bill is supported by both Uber and Lyft, as well as the Teamsters, their affiliated Drivers Union, and dozens of labor and community-based organizations across the state. Moreover, it is backed by the people who matter most—the drivers themselves.”
LaborNotes further reported that drivers have mixed feelings about the bill. Some feel that the independent contractor status matters less than securing important benefits. Others think the status will keep them in a vulnerable, trapped relationship with their companies.
Drivers also expressed concern that the benefits in the Washington bill are not robust enough. Workers would only accrue paid sick leave when a passenger is in the car, about 50% of their working time, according to a University of California Berkeley study.
In summer 2021, gig workers staged protests against Prop 22 in California. One of their biggest qualms was the inability to unionize. "I came here to fight to be able to unionize," Ibrahim Diallo, a ride-hail driver in the Bay Area, told Protocol at the time. "It's unbelievable that we are not allowed to form a union."
The Senate will hold a public hearing on the bill Saturday.