Ride-hailing drivers, delivery workers and their supporters on Wednesday converged in front of Uber Technologies Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters to announce that they have formed a union.
The California Gig Workers Union is an alliance of the Mobile Workers Alliance in Southern California and We Drive Progress in Northern California, which count among their members drivers and delivery workers for companies such as Uber
Instacart and Amazon.com Inc.’s
Amazon Flex. The companies treat those workers as independent contractors, not employees.
The two groups, which say they have brought together tens of thousands of gig workers across the state in the past several years, said in a news release that they are uniting “with the core goal of winning union rights for gig workers across the state.”
The union said it is trying to establish “a strong collective voice and power” like the workers who are organizing at other big companies such as Amazon, Starbucks Corp.
Trader Joe’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.
John Logan, a professor of labor studies at San Francisco State University, said Wednesday that the unionizing activity at companies such as Starbucks involves employees who are covered under the National Labor Relations Act. This means that when those workers vote to unionize, companies are required to bargain with them in “good faith.”
“At the moment, the Uber, Lyft [and] other drivers are gig workers and not covered by the NLRA,” Logan said. But he added that a new rule proposed by the Labor Department on Tuesday could change that, because it “is intended to cut down on the deliberate misclassification of gig workers as independent contractors rather than employees.”
See: ‘Gig work’ rule is in Biden administration’s crosshairs
See also: Unions’ push at Amazon, Apple and Starbucks could be ‘most significant moment in the American labor movement’ in decades
Cardell Calloway, 68, a DoorDash Inc.
delivery worker and former ride-hailing driver, joined the rally Wednesday. He told MarketWatch by phone that he has worked in the gig economy since 2014, and now delivers about eight to 12 hours a day, five to six days a week, in the Los Angeles area. He said he makes about $500 a week.
“I work more than eight hours a day and get no overtime,” said Calloway, who added that he’s been living in his car for about a month. “And gas prices are higher now. We need to have a union and make these companies provide us with a minimum wage and benefits.”
The union is an organizing project of Service Employees International Union Locals 721 and 1021, according to Tim Sandoval, spokesman for the California Gig Workers Union, or CGWU. He said the union — which has not started collecting dues yet — hopes to “achieve fair pay, basic worker rights and protections, and really just respect for workers.”
“I think it’s clear that Proposition 22 has not worked for gig workers” in California, Sandoval said, referencing an industry-backed ballot initiative that promised guaranteed wages and healthcare benefits for gig workers while allowing companies to circumvent state labor law and continue classifying the workers as independent contractors. The law was ruled unconstitutional last year after winning the approval of 58% of California voters in 2020, a decision the gig companies are appealing.
See: Uber, Lyft drivers say new California law isn’t solving their health-care needs
Workers groups have said gig workers have seen continued low wages after Prop. 22 passed, while the companies have pointed to studies they’ve backed that show earnings of $30 an hour or more.
Also: Uber and Lyft drivers net less than $7 an hour after California law passed, driver-led study finds
An Uber spokesman on Wednesday touted the benefits the company said Prop. 22 has brought to California drivers: “Prop. 22 delivered historic new benefits and protections and a 120% minimum wage guarantee to drivers while maintaining the flexibility they overwhelmingly say they want.”
A spokesman for DoorDash had a similar response: “Time and again, Dashers have told us that Prop. 22 has supported them by protecting the flexibility they need while providing strong earnings and the security of access to benefits and protections.”
Lyft, Instacart and Amazon did not immediately return requests for comment.
Of Prop. 22, Calloway, the DoorDash delivery worker, referred to the money that gig companies spent on the campaign, saying “Why are you going to spend $225 million to keep me in poverty?”