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Setting Standards for Gig Workers

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Uber has gotten around to the point that having some workplace standards in the industry is in its own best interest. While one always wonders about a union allying with a company on, well, much of anything, this is probably a good thing.

A bill that would codify the rights and benefits of rideshare drivers and other gig workers has made headway in the Washington state legislature over the past month. Currently, the bill has passed the state’s house and has reached the senate for further consideration. Included among the bill’s sponsors are ridesharing companies themselves, as well as Teamsters local 117 and it’s affiliate, Drivers Union.

Bills with similar language have received the interest of state lawmakers across the country over the past year. For example, similar regulatory bills have also been introduced in Massachusetts and New York, though Washington’s has thus far made it the farthest.

Initiatives like the one in Washington do expand the rights and benefits of drivers, including increased pay, an improved appeals system for deactivated drivers, and an expanded workers compensation system. However, it notably maintains the workers’ status as independent contractors, rather than reclassifying them as full-or-part-time employees. 

A further item that critics of the bill point to is that expanded workers’ comp would only be in effect when a driver is on the way to pick up a passenger or actually has a passenger in the car; the legislation describes these activities as “dispatch platform time” and “passenger platform time” respectively. This would leave workers vulnerable if they get injured between fares, while they are roving and awaiting a new trip request.

Of course Uber is also threatening to take its Prop 22 model around the nation and just overwhelm a pretty dim electorate with a lot of propaganda. So we will see.

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