The CEOs of the two top-competing gig firms—Uber and Lyft—penned a June 12, 2019 OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle in which they claim that after over six years of local, state, federal, and international law-breaking, ignoring the concerns of drivers, and viciously fighting any efforts to achieve living wage and benefits, they are ready to compromise…in California. They claim that in exchange for getting rid of a bill that just passed the state assembly—which would extend California labor protections to many “gig workers” by making it easier for them to claim employee status under state law—they will agree to establish a wage floor, a “workers’ association,” and potentially, a deactivation appeals process.
Although the details of the “workers’ association” that the Uber & Lyft CEOs lay out in their op-ed are murky, reports indicate that it would stop short of giving workers the right to collectively bargain. This raises extraordinary concerns about both worker independence and worker power—both in and out of the so-called “gig economy.”
A hallmark of U.S. labor law for almost a century has been a ban against company unions—that is, a prohibition against any labor association that the employer helps to form or influence, either through financial or in-kind support. If California legislates around this for gig workers, such a “worker association”—or company union— could easily become a reality in other sectors.