A passing truck driver honks a horn at Lyft driver Ann Glatt, left, and Lauren Swiger with Gig Workers Rising during a protest outside Uber headquarters on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mandelman to hold hearing on working conditions for gig workers to boost push for labor protections

Call for debate comes as drivers rally outside Uber headquarters

Uber and Lyft drivers rallied outside Uber headquarters in San Francisco Tuesday as state legislators debated increased protections for gig workers like them in Sacramento.

In response, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman is set to call for a hearing Tuesday on their working conditions here in The City.

The hearing on “worker rights in the gig economy,” requested with Supervisor Gordon Mar, will take place next Friday, June 28, at the Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee. It could give a boost to those pushing for the passage of Assembly Bill 5.

The bill, which both supervisors support, would redefine those who work for companies like Uber and Lyft as employees and not independent contractors. That reclassification could entitle them to benefits including minimum wage, overtime pay and health benefits.

“The struggle of gig workers to simply survive is an issue that deserves San Francisco’s attention, particularly while the state legislature is contemplating changes to labor laws that may have a historic impact on residents and visitors participating in our local gig economy,” Mandelman said in a statement.

He said that “public policy has been slow to respond” to the rise of the gig company and “gig companies have reaped the benefits of that inaction.”

The hearing was requested in collaboration with labor groups like SEIU United Service Workers West, SEIU 1021,Teamsters and the San Francisco Labor Council.

“Technology and innovation should act in service to society, not the other way around. Organized labor fought for hard-won rights for working people – rights now under threat by gig worker classifications denying tens of thousands of people the basic rights and protections of employment that built our middle class,” Mar said in a statement. “As new companies and industries enjoy new levels of wealth and success, we must ensure the workers responsible for that success are treated fairly, transparently, and equitably.”

More than a dozen protesters stood outside Uber headquarters Tuesday morning to drum up support for Assembly Bill 5 and counter messaging from the companies.

Executives with Uber and Lyft penned an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle last week opposing the state bill. “A change to the employment classification of ride-share drivers would pose a risk to our businesses,” they wrote. They argued instead for a “different solution that preserves the drivers’ ability to work independently if they choose to do so while improving the quality and security of their work”

Among those protesting Tuesday was Annette Rivero, an Uber and Lyft driver since 2017.

“They’re saying that they have to take away our flexibility” if AB5 passes, Rivero said. But she disagreed with Uber’s assertion. “Even if they made us employees, we could still be flexible,” she said.

Rivero argued that an alternative to AB 5 won’t provide sufficient labor protections to adequately increase her wages and benefits.

Rivero said she has five children to support and when she started she was making enough money, but her earnings have since declined. As Uber and Lyft approached their Initial Public Offering, the companies increased the cut they took from fares, drivers have alleged.

“We’ve been asking for higher rates, benefits, everything,” Rivero said.

When Rivero started driving in 2017, she said she recruited her father, Ricky, to drive.

“I told him I was making a lot of money,” she said. “I thought it would be great.”

Now her father, who has recurring pain in his legs from an old injury, sleeps in his car some nights in San Francisco to avoid the long drive back to Los Gatos, when he’s finished a shift for Uber.

“He sleeps in his car every other night,” she said.

“Regardless of the outcome of AB 5, as a center of the gig economy, San Francisco should be part of the conversation,” Mandelman said. “The cost of not weighing in is not only economic, it is human, too, and it poses disproportionate impacts on low-income people, young people, and communities of color across the country.”

The hearing could result in a proposal for the board to take a formal position on AB 5.

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