SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Uber and Lyft are trying to stop a proposed state law that officially defines its drivers as employees. They’re using questionable methods to get their drivers to oppose the bill as well.
The bill is called AB 5 and it would require companies like Uber and Lyft to treat drivers like employees, meaning they’d have to provide worker’s compensation, paid time off and minimum wages, among other things.
But Uber and Lyft have been using their own driver interface apps in an effort to get drivers to sign a petition opposing AB 5.
“What happened in the morning today, actually it was yesterday, when I press to go with Uber, I get a notification and the notification says ‘Protect driver’s flexibility,’” said Al Aloudi, who drives for both companies.
Notifications on the Uber and Lyft apps are usually reserved for important messages about money or safety, Aloudi said. “It shows here, ‘Recent changes to California law could threaten your access to flexible work with Uber.’”
A click through of the Uber message leads to another page with several paragraphs. At the bottom, employees are encouraged to “make their voice heard.” The form contains text provided by the company that employees can edit or add to before the message is sent to state lawmakers.
Lyft’s notification has a similar appeal–asking drivers to oppose being classified as employees. Aloudi said he signed the Lyft petition by mistake.
“I just realized I did something wrong. I took the action, I wasn’t reading everything,” he said.
Drivers with limited English might not realize what they’re signing. They may fill it out just because it comes from the companies.
KPIX 5 reached out to Uber and Lyft with questions about the notices. Uber didn’t respond, but Lyft sent a statement reading, in part:
“We sent communications to California drivers about this important issue that has the potential to significantly impact their work with Lyft.” Lyft did confirm that they know which drivers have signed the petition.
If drivers officially become employees, both companies would likely decide to put them on schedules, which would decrease the drivers’ flexibility.
“You see, the flexibility, I don’t know what they’re talking about, but for us, still we have to work in certain times to make money. Otherwise, you’re not gonna make money,” explained Rashed Alsanea, who also drives for Uber and Lyft.
Alsanea says the downward creep of his pay means he has no choice about when to work or even where, since the app shows the driver where to go to make money.
AB 5 has already been voted on in the California State Assembly, where it passed overwhelmingly. Now, it’s working its way up to the State Senate.