Today, California ruled that Uber and Lyft must stop pretending that their drivers are independent contractors and start treating them for what they are: employees. Uber and Lyft’s responses are, of course, exactly the kind of weak shit you would expect.
Here’s the main news via The Verge:
A California judge ruled that Uber and Lyft must classify their drivers as employees in a stunning preliminary injunction issued Monday afternoon. The injunction is stayed for 10 days, however, giving Uber and Lyft an opportunity to appeal the decision. Uber said it planned to file an immediate emergency appeal to block the ruling from going into effect.
And here’s how Uber and Lyft responded to the press:
“The vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and we’ve already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under California law,” an Uber spokesperson said. “When over 3 million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression.”
A Lyft spokesperson agreed. “Drivers do not want to be employees, full stop,” the spokesperson said. “We’ll immediately appeal this ruling and continue to fight for their independence. Ultimately, we believe this issue will be decided by California voters and that they will side with drivers.”
These statements are wonderful in that they clearly show the gross mindset behind Uber and Lyft’s model. App drivers provide all of the work and services of Uber and Uber gives back to these workers nothing. Drivers are meant to feel lucky to be given scraps as the company itself rakes it in.
Uber’s CEO even told on himself regarding the fundamental conceit of the business in a New York Times op-ed today “I Am the C.E.O. of Uber. Gig Workers Deserve Better.” The passive voice of the headline ignores that the CEO of Uber has all the power in the world to give drivers all they deserve. Farther down in the story, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi lays out that, yes, he could improve the lives of Uber drivers if he felt like it, which he does not, as explained in a wonderful breakdown by Edward Ongweso Jr in Motherboard:
Saying that employees have “less flexibility,” while admitting that independent contractors (Uber’s workforce) have “almost no safety net,” Khosrowshahi wrote that Uber is ready and willing pay into a fund for contractors’ benefits—but only if forced to by a new and hypothetical law that would also force other companies to do the same.
“Uber is ready, right now, to pay more to give drivers new benefits and protections. But America needs to change the status quo to protect all workers, not just one type of work,” Khosrowshahi wrote.
What Khosrowshahi is saying is that Uber has every ability to be a good company, that treats its workers well, but it has no interest in doing so, in being a pioneer, even if what it’s pioneering is “treating the people who make Uber rich with any kind of fundamental human dignity.” Knowing that Uber has the ability to do it means that Uber must not have any desire to do it. We shouldn’t take its justifications for this kind of status quo at face value. It’s like when Uber and Lyft say that their drivers don’t want to be employees; these claims stem from surveys and studies that are commissioned by Uber and Lyft themselves. There is no impartial world Uber and Lyft are relating to. They are fabricating a cruel one as they wish to see it.
What Uber and Lyft tell you about how the world works is a warped world altogether, and one we should not seek to perpetuate.