Drivers protest at Uber headquarters on Friday. (Scott Morris/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Drivers deliver letter to Uber demanding better working conditions

A coalition of labor unions and advocacy groups for the drivershas been pushing for improved wages and employee protections for drivers.

Uber and Lyft drivers chanted and cheered outside the Uber headquarters building in San Francisco on Friday as they delivered a letter demanding negotiations for better working conditions.

A coalition of labor unions and advocacy groups for the drivershas been pushing for improved wages and employee protections for drivers, who are classified as independent contractors and receive no benefits, no matter how long they work.

Annette Rivero, a driver from San Jose, said outside of Uber’s headquarters at 1455 Market St. on Friday morning that the companies were sabotaging the gains of labor movements over the previous century.

Rivero said she left a regular salaried position to go back to school, hoping she could make more money and help her parents retire. But now she works as a driver without any health benefits.

“I took my 9-5 job for granted,” she said. “With three to four years driving for Uber and Lyft, I can appreciate what I had before.”

After Rivero spoke, the demonstrators turned and moved collectively toward the doors of the building, but were blocked from entering by security guards.

They handed them a letter, which was also published as a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle, demanding that Uber and Lyft engage more with drivers to improve their working conditions.

“It’s time for Uber and Lyft to do right by us,” said the letter, which was signed by Linda Valdivia of the Mobile Workers Alliance and Rebecca Stack-Martinez of Gig Workers Rising.

“That means extending all drivers the living wages and basic workplace protections we deserve,” they wrote.

The drivers saw some hope in a state Supreme Court decision last year, which created new standards regarding who could be classified as an independent contractor.

The decision, in the case Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, held that workers need to be free from the direction and control of the hiring entity, must perform work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business, and must be customarily engaged in an independent business.

Enforcement of the decision, however, can be time consuming and complex and involves court challenges. Companies have continued to test its boundaries in the courts.

To that end, state Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, introduced AB5 in December, which would codify the Dynamex decision in state law. The bill passed the Assembly in May and was referred to the Senate.

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