After conquering California, Uber and Lyft are wooing New York Democrats with gig-economy dollars.
The Daily Poster and I collaborated on this story.
According to leaked state bill language, Lyft, Uber, and other allied gig work companies are close to reaching an agreement with New York state legislators and labor leaders that would allow tech giants to continue classifying their workers as independent contractors rather than employees, and would prohibit newly unionized workers from engaging in “any picketing, strikes, slow downs, or boycotts.”
The potential legislation comes as Lyft and Uber, among others, have waged a multi-year, multi-million-dollar political influence program in New York, cultivating close links to the state’s Democrats. Their efforts could result in a significant shift in labor relations in a state that has long been a labor stronghold.
If the bill leaked last week becomes law in its current form, it would be a watershed moment for gig economy businesses. While the companies were unable to reach a comparable agreement in Connecticut, they invested $200 million to pass a ballot measure in California in 2020 that would deny employee status to gig employees in the state after labor talks broke down.
Labor Notes and Bloomberg gathered information about the contract Uber and Lyft are negotiating with New York lawmakers and labor leaders last Friday. Although the agreement would allow gig employees to vote on whether or not to join unions and negotiate collectively, it would also codify the non-employee status of app-based ride hailing and delivery service drivers. It will also preempt local laws that set minimum salaries and require companies to pay drivers for time spent waiting for fares, such as those in New York City.
Gig job firms are willing to put a lot of money into this battle because classifying their employees as independent contractors is vital to their business model, as it shifts the costs of purchasing and maintaining vehicles and other required equipment onto workers while still denying them a minimum wage, health insurance, and other employment benefits.
On Friday, Democratic state Senator Jessica Ramos, who chairs the senate labor committee, spoke out against the agreement, saying it would legitimize company-dominated unions and weaken the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a federal law that has passed the House of Representatives and recognizes a broader set of rights for gig employees.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to help legislation.” This is a condensed version of the information.