Rideshare company Uber hasn’t made a lot of friends in the media lately, but its most recent faux pas has kicked off due to COVID-19. See, Uber wants its drivers to be classified essential workers, which would thus give them early access to the incoming vaccine.
In a letter to Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the following:
Over the last nine months, these workers have been a lifeline to their communities. They have transported healthcare workers to hospitals, delivered food to people socially distancing at home, and helped local restaurants stay in business.
Uber also petitioned the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that it would “help drivers and delivery people continue to play their essential role while also reducing the risk that they may inadvertently contract, or possibly transmit, the virus.” It added that the Uber app could provide information about the vaccine to riders.
Initial doses of the vaccine will be pretty limited, so it’s up to each individual state to decide who’s going to be first in line. Common sense dictates that there are certain folks you want to vaccinate first: medical professionals working on the front lines, the elderly, people who work in long-term care facilities, and people with preexisting conditions that make them more susceptible to falling ill.
And, yes, soon after that one would expect essential workers to fall. These are the folks that have still been showing up to work each day to sell us food, clothes, groceries, and more. Rideshare drivers and food delivery drivers likely fall into that category.
Here’s where the issue comes in. Uber wants its drivers to be considered essential, but the company has gone out of its way to classify its drivers as contractors and not employees—which denies those drivers access to certain benefits that would be provided by an employer. It’s been hard for a lot of people to stomach Uber asking for special privileges when it denies those same privileges to its workforce.
Whatever the case may be, the United States will have a limited supply of vaccines available. We may be able to vaccinate all healthcare professionals by the end of the year, but everyone else is going to have to wait in line.