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Dozens of Uber and Lyft drivers rallied Tuesday afternoon in front of Uber headquarters demanding that state legislature pass Assembly Bill 5, which would classify drivers of Uber and Lyft as employees.

Drivers for Transportation Network Companies say AB5 would afford them basic employee rights if passed. The bill is currently sitting with the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Steve Gregg, who drives for both rideshare giants, said changing the definition of an independent contractor would be a first step toward drivers’ ability to unionize.

Gregg said:

“We want transparency. We want benefits. We want basic work protections.”

Some who attended Tuesday’s rally drove up from Los Angeles to make their demands loud and clear, blasting car horns and shutting down a stretch of Market Street between 10th and 11 streets.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay A Transportation Network driver holds up a sign in support of Uber and Lyft drivers at a rally in San Francisco, Cali., on Tuesday, August 27, 2019.

The rally was part of a three-day journey from Southern California to the Bay Area and will end Wednesday in Sacramento.

Carlos Ramos, who has worked with Lyft as a driver for three years, spoke to the crowd outside Uber headquarters.

Ramos said:

“Today we are standing together to demand basic worker protections. Today we are standing together to demand a path to a union. We are demanding a seat at the table where we get to negotiate better wages, benefits and working conditions.”

Linda Valdivia, a three-year Uber driver and Mobile Workers Alliance organizer, expressed frustration shared by many.

Valdivia said:

“We the drivers are fed up. Right now, Lyft and Uber take home all the profits.”

Pete Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, came to show his support for drivers.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Pete Buttigieg, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, joined drivers of Uber and Lyft at a rally in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, August 27, 2019 to demand passage of AB5.

Buttigieg said:

“I’m here because where I come from, gig is another word for job. It means if you’re working a gig, that makes you worker and you ought to be protected as a worker.”

He added:

That means you deserve a minimum wage. That means you deserve protections from workplace sexual harassment. That means you deserve overtime protections. That means you deserve a union.”

State Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, introduced AB 5 that would codify a state Supreme Court decision in the Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court of Los Angeles.

In that case, the court used the “ABC” test and found that Dynamex had misclassified its workers as independent contractors.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay A person holds a “Drivers Union Now!” sign during a rally for Uber and Lyft drivers in San Francisco, Calif, on Tuesday, August 27, 2019.

Several people at the rally Tuesday believe Uber and Lyft also misclassify drivers if the same standard is applied.

The ABC test dictates that employers can classify workers as independent contractors only if each of the following standards are met:

  • (A) The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.
  • (B) The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
  • (C) The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.

An Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch:

“We believe that independent, on-demand workers should not have to sacrifice security to enjoy that flexibility. That’s why we’ve been working with stakeholders to find a path forward that provides a minimum earnings guarantee for drivers; a robust package of portable benefits they can access no matter which rideshare company they drive for; and meaningful representation that gives them a say on matters affecting their lives and livelihood.”

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Uber and Lyft drivers held a rally in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, August 27, 2019, in support of Assembly Bill 5.

Lyft made a similar statement in a TechCrunch interview:

“That’s why we’ve been working with lawmakers and labor leaders on a different solution, so drivers can continue to control where, when, and how long they drive, while also having some basic protections like a minimum earnings floor, a system of worker-directed portable benefits, and representation.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on AB5 Friday.

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