Court rules Uber and Lyft must face worker-misclassification lawsuit from Massachusetts’ attorney general

Uber Lyft

A Massachusetts state court on Thursday rejected requests by Uber and Lyft to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the companies of illegally misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors.

The lawsuit, brought by the Massachusetts state attorney general Maura Healey in July, alleged the companies have denied drivers benefits and workplace protections guaranteed to employees by instead classifying them as contractors.

Uber and Lyft then asked the court to toss the case, arguing the state hadn’t done enough to prove drivers were denied benefits and that there wasn’t a legitimate legal dispute over the issue. The court denied both companies’ requests, allowing the case to proceed.

Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment on this story, while labor and driver groups praised the ruling.

“This court order is a complete rejection of Uber and Lyft’s position and a big win for working people,” Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Steve Tolman told Insider in a statement.

“Every worker should be able to earn a decent wage, take care of their health, and protect against harassment and discrimination on the job. We thank Attorney General Healey and her team for holding Uber and Lyft accountable for following the same rules that apply to every other company,” Tolman added.

The two ride-hailing giants have faced an increasing number of legal challenges in recent years over how they classify workers amid growing evidence many drivers are paid less than the minimum wage, and have struggled – particularly during the pandemic – without access to health care, labor protections, and unemployment benefits guaranteed by law to employees.

While companies are typically required to pay into state and federal programs benefiting their workers, Uber and Lyft have passed those costs on to taxpayers. A recent Washington Post analysis found more than 27,000 Uber and Lyft drivers received a combined $80 million from the US government to help them get through the pandemic.

The companies have argued drivers should be considered contractors because they’re able to choose when they can work and which rides they accept, claiming the companies are simply technology platforms that connect drivers and riders.

But a UK court recently rejected that argument, finding Uber and Lyft exercise significant control over drivers – much like a traditional employer – by setting their rates, assigning them rides, and using a rating system to determine their ability to get work on the platform. Uber responded by reclassifying its drivers as “workers,” a category under UK law between employment and contractor, in order to head off further legal disputes with drivers.

California regulators and courts also rejected the arguments put forth by Uber and Lyft, but the companies – along with a coalition of food-delivery companies including DoorDash and Instacart – avoided having to comply with those rulings by spending a combined $200 million to persuade voters to pass a law they wrote that keeps drivers as contractors.

The companies have also spent record amounts on lobbying as the worker classification issue takes the national stage.

The Biden administration’s proposed PRO Act, which wouldn’t automatically reclassify gig workers but would make it easier for them to unionize, has elevated the discussion around which rights and benefits rideshare and food-delivery workers should have – and who should bear those costs.

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SoftBank is under investigation by the SEC following its risky ‘Nasdaq whale’ investments

masayoshi son softbank

The Japanese investing conglomerate SoftBank, which has holdings in household names like Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Uber, DoorDash, and Sprint, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Vice News reported Wednesday.

The agency’s acknowledgment of its investigation follows reporting by the Financial Times last year that revealed SB Northstar, which is controlled by SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, as the “Nasdaq whale” behind secretive, risky multibillion-dollar bets on tech stocks during last summer’s market rally.

The SEC disclosed the investigation in response to a public records request from Think Computer Foundation founder Aaron Greenspan, according to the legal transparency group PlainSite.

Greenspan had asked for “any investigative materials” about SoftBank or its web of companies “specifically relating to SoftBank’s trading of stocks and derivatives on those stocks,” according to PlainSite. After initially denying that it had any relevant records, the SEC responded to Greenspan’s appeal by saying that it had records, but couldn’t share them, because “the investigation from which you seek records is active and ongoing.”

SoftBank and the SEC did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

SoftBank faced intense pressure from its major shareholders to unwind its risky options positions after SB Northstar posted $3.7 billion in losses in November, which included $2.7 billion in derivatives losses, the Financial Times reported in November. SoftBank eventually relented to that pressure.

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Uber will pay its 70,000 UK-based drivers minimum wage and benefits following a major Supreme Court defeat

uber driver prop 22
Rideshare driver Teresa Mercado raises her fist in support as app based gig workers held a driving demonstration with 60-70 vehicles blocking Spring Street in front of Los Angeles City Hall urging voters to vote no on Proposition 22 on Oct. 8, 2020.

  • Uber is reclassifying its UK-based drivers as “workers,” it said in a regulatory filing Tuesday.
  • The move requires Uber to follow minimum wage, paid vacation, and other labor laws.
  • Uber strongly opposes efforts to reclassify its drivers, but pivoted in the UK after a legal defeat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber announced Tuesday it will reclassify drivers in the United Kingdom as “workers,” guaranteeing them minimum wage, paid vacation, pensions, and additional protection under the country’s labor laws.

In a statement, Uber told Insider the move will impact more than 70,000 drivers, and follows a recent unanimous Supreme Court decision that determined drivers should be classified as workers.

Uber initially downplayed the ruling, saying it “focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016,” though shares of Uber dropped as much as 2% following the ruling.

With Tuesday’s announcement, Uber has opted to reclassify all UK drivers rather than fight legal battles with individual drivers about whether the court’s ruling would apply to them.

“Uber is just one part of a larger private-hire industry, so we hope that all other operators will join us in improving the quality of work for these important workers who are an essential part of our everyday lives,” Jamie Heywood, the regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, told Insider in a statement.

The move is a major shift for Uber, which has aggressively fought rulings by courts and regulators in the US that have determined drivers to be employees as opposed to contractors. In California, Uber spent at least $30 million persuading voters to pass Proposition 22, a law it co-authored that carved out an exemption from state labor laws to allow rideshare and food delivery drivers to be treated as contractors.

Unlike American law, which defines workers as employees or contractors, UK law has an additional “worker” category, which entitles workers to receive the minimum wage, paid vacation, rest breaks, and protections against illegal discrimination, retaliation for whistleblowing, and wage theft. That classification falls short of guaranteeing benefits like parental leave and severance to which full employees are entitled.

Uber said the UK minimum wage, which is slightly above $12, will serve as an “earnings floor, not an earnings ceiling” after accounting for roughly 62 cents in per-mile expenses, but that drivers won’t be paid for the time they spend waiting for a ride – which some researchers have found accounts for as much as 33% of drivers’ work.

Uber also said it will pay drivers around 12% of their earnings as vacation pay every two weeks and enroll them in a pension plan to which Uber will also contribute.

Labor advocates voiced their support for the move and the court ruling that proceeded it.

“Dear America … see what happens when a government lays it down? Is Uber leaving? No, they’re actually doing right by their workforce in the UK. Our drivers deserve this too. Why would an American company short change American workers? Because we let them!” tweeted California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the author of AB-5, the state labor law that Uber sought an exemption from by pushing Prop 22.

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How to prepare your business for unexpected disruptions and remain profitable through uncertainty

man getting into car ride share uber lyft
Business owners should be prepared for industry shifts, like how Uber affected taxicab drivers.

  • Per Bylund, PhD, is an assistant professor of entrepreneurship and at Oklahoma State University. 
  • He says businesses of all sizes should be prepared for unexpected disruptions outside of their control.
  • Make sure your business is consumer-oriented, and focus on keeping your company profitable.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Starting a business and making it break even is an extremely difficult accomplishment. Kudos to entrepreneurs managing this feat. But running a business is also no cakewalk. No profitable niche lasts forever, and the more profitable it is, the slimmer the chances are that it will last. Many entrepreneurs, including those with seemingly safe businesses, lost everything when their industries were unexpectedly disrupted. 

The taxicab industry is a telling example. It was benefiting from protective regulations that effectively had kept competition low for decades, yet all it took was a couple of tech-savvy guys – Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp of Uber – to upend the whole industry. Even though their business was not to provide regular taxi service, their innovation undermined that business. Uber and other similar services caused many taxicab companies to go bankrupt and the market value of taxi medallions to plummet. 

In other words, your business is not safe even if you are already making nice profits and the future looks bright. After all, even protected monopolies eventually get disrupted. What you need is to make sure you can stay profitable in the years and decades to come.

Profitability is to meet the future 

The key to profitability is to recognize what businesses are and do from the perspective of the whole economy. Businesses formulate strategies to position themselves with respect to each other and thereby earn profits. So the economic context matters, because it is within the economy that you run your business. It’s an obvious point, but what it means is rarely considered.

In the startup phase, the entrepreneur tries to find and populate a “gap” that allows the business to become profitable. But the same is true for the existing business, which must continue to consider its positioning to stay profitable. That’s what the old-style “Five Forces” framework helps you do – to position your business so that competitors, suppliers, customers and others have as little sway over it as possible. But there is more to it than positioning.

Profits are rewards for a job well-done. But to maintain profitability, your sight must be set to facilitate future value. After all, the line of production that you’re considering today will not be instantaneously available to your customers. The value they get from the goods and services you set out to produce will without exception happen in the future. In other words, profits indicate you did something right. But profitability is a matter of meeting the future. 

Customer isn’t king, but consumer is

The key to profitability is to imagine how you are contributing to making consumers better off. Note: “consumers” not “customers.” In our advanced economy, with two-thirds of all spending being business-to-business (B2B), your customer may not be the consumer. But the consumer is the user of the final product and therefore the one that determines its value. The consumer, therefore, determines also the value of all contributions in the supply chain, albeit indirectly. 

This subtle point has important implications. Businesses that produce the final product must focus on what consumers want and, more importantly, what they will want in the near future. But the same applies for B2B to maintain profitability. If you produce for other businesses, the viability of your own business goes only as far as your customer’s. When they are no longer profitable, you are no longer profitable. 

To stay profitable over time, look beyond your customer and consider your contribution to the value of the final product. Even if your customer does not recognize it, you should meet the opportunity and innovate to offer your customer an upper hand. If you make your customers thrive, your business thrives. The key is to think about the consumer whether or not you serve them directly.

Microsoft is an example of how to apply this thinking. While the software giant caters primarily to corporations and large institutions, they look ahead and continuously innovate to make it easier for their customers to serve consumers. From software to hardware, Microsoft focuses on providing the tools for productivity. This empowers their customers to serve their customers and, eventually, the consumer. In other words, Microsoft indirectly facilitates value for consumers, which makes Microsoft’s customers competitive and profitable.

Whether or not your business caters directly to consumers, it should still be consumer-oriented. To gain and maintain relevance in the economy, which is necessary to be (and continue being) profitable, requires that you contribute to the value of the final good. The great mistake of the taxicab companies was to focus on their strategic positioning in the market over innovating to facilitate value for consumers. This left the market wide open for a new type of competitor playing by a different rulebook.

All businesses benefit from adopting a consumer-value focus.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to contact Uber support as a driver or rider if you need help resolving an issue

Uber phone app car
There are different ways to contact Uber, depending on if you are a driver or passenger.

  • You can contact Uber to get help as a driver or rider in many different ways. 
  • The easiest way to contact Uber is via the mobile app — in the Support Center for drivers or Your Trips for riders. 
  • To contact Uber by phone, there is an emergency number and a customer support line, so use the appropriate one for your situation. 
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Whether you’re a driver or a passenger, Uber generally provides a smooth transportation experience. 

But occasionally, you might need to reach out and get help from a real person at the ridesharing company. If so, there are a handful of ways for you to get assistance. 

How to contact Uber if you’re a driver 

As a driver, you can contact Uber for assistance through the mobile app, which will directly connect you with live support. You can also get help in person at an Uber Greenlight location, or reach out to Uber through social media.

How to contact Uber if you’re a rider 

As a rider, you can contact Uber for assistance through the mobile app, reach out for support via social media, or call the local support line. 

How to contact Uber Eats in several different ways if you experience an issue with your orderHow to contact your Uber driver before and after your trip, to arrange pick-up and report lost itemsHow to contact Lyft through the mobile app or website for customer support and moreHow to place an Uber Eats group order and let everyone pick out their own order for a single delivery

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Meet the Uber drivers who spent 5 years fighting the ride-hailing firm for basic workers’ rights – and won

Former Uber drivers James Farrar (L) and Yaseen Aslam react as they leave the Employment Appeals Tribunal in central London on November 10, 2017. US ride-hailing app Uber on Friday lost a landmark case in Britain that would give drivers the right to paid holidays and the national minimum wage, lawyers representing the claimants said. Farrar, who brought the test case with fellow former driver Aslam, called Uber's business plan "brutally exploitative". Uber said it will appeal the ruling.
Former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam leaving an employment appeals tribunal in 2017.

  • Two ex-Uber drivers won a huge legal battle against the taxi app firm over workers’ rights.
  • Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar began the case in 2016, fighting for minimum wage and other rights.
  • Farrar said Uber is being defiant about the ruling but hopes it’ll come to accept it.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Five years after they took Uber to court, two ex-drivers on Friday won a legal battle against the ride-hailing firm.

Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar were part of a small group of drivers who brought the original case against Uber in 2015. Aslam and his colleague Farrar, president and general secretary of the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) respectively, claimed Uber was breaking UK employment law by failing to offer basic worker rights, such as holiday pay and national minimum wage. They won the case.

Uber disputed the claims, saying it acted like other traditional minicab firms and counted its drivers as self-employed contractors. At the time, this meant drivers had minimal protections, including no sick pay and Uber could avoid the costs of paying minimum wage. In 2017, Uber appealed the original ruling and lost.

Uber then appealed the case in the UK’s Supreme Court and the process dragged on into February 2021. Again, the company lost, marking the end of its legal road. The outcome could threaten Uber’s business model in the UK – one of its biggest markets – if it is forced to cough up back pay for thousands of drivers who may bring cases, and if it must pay higher taxes.

The dispute will go back to an employment tribunal, which will decide how much the 25 drivers who brought the case five years ago will be awarded. Aslam believes he’s entitled to between £10,000 and £12,000.

“I was delighted,” he told Insider. “It means a lot. I didn’t just do it for myself, I did it for the workers and drivers. I’m just a driver who spoke up for injustice.”

Aslam, who is based in the UK, worked for Uber between 2013 and 2017. Once, during his time at the company, he says Uber “deactivated” him for organizing a campaign against the company’s treatment of drivers. This meant the company didn’t allow him to access the app to pick up passengers, he said. 

“I’m not anti-Uber and I’m not there to shut Uber down. But the law is there for a reason,” he added. Uber did not respond when Insider asked it to comment on Aslam’s claims of deactivation.

Uber’s business model 

When Aslam first started working at Uber, he said it was good. He earned £50 an hour, got a £10 bonus for each ride, and the fares were higher. Plus, the company “put the drivers first.”

As he continued working for the company, however, the fares got cheaper and the bonuses stopped, he says. After the launch of UberPool, a service launched in 2015 that allows people to split ride costs with another person who is travelling in the same direction, drivers were earning even less, according to Aslam.

Back in 2016, CNN also reported that drivers said UberPool meant more work, but not necessarily more pay. Aslam said drivers have realised that Uber is “hiding behind technology to control workers.”

According to Aslam, Uber’s business model involves mass recruiting and flooding the streets with drivers and cars, while keeping fares cheap to attract customers. This has long been a criticism of Uber and its business model – that the firm, initially funded by huge amounts of private capital, could afford to keep cab fares artificially low at the expense of drivers and the competition.

Although Aslam thinks businesses such as Uber should exist, he said they “rely on exploiting people and they go for a mass scaling model and I think it’s wrong.” He believes the customer should take some responsibility in the pricing as there’s a human cost involved: “There’s someone behind that wheel and they need to have rights.”

The case still isn’t over

“The devil is in the details now,” Farrar told Insider. He said Uber is being defiant about committing to implement the ruling.

After the recent ruling, Uber was quick to point out that it only applied to the group of 25 drivers who brought the case in 2016. It also said the ruling was specific to how Uber’s business operated when the drivers initially filed a lawsuit, and that the business has since changed.

“Uber is trying to spin a line to drivers that this ruling only applies to the original claimants and not to all drivers,”  said Farrar, who worked for Uber between 2015 and 2016. “Not only is it untrue but it’s demonstrably contrary to the spirit of the ruling.”

He hopes Uber is just going through “a stage of emotional grief and denial” and that it will accept the ruling. But if not, he said the government and regulator Transport for London (TfL) needs to step in. 

Claims against Uber are already piling up

If the government doesn’t enforce the law and TfL doesn’t step in, Farrar said he and other drivers would have to “pile up litigation” against Uber.

Indeed, thousands of claimants are already making claims against the firm. Nigel Mackay, a partner at Leigh Day Solicitors, said his company currently has 3,500 clients with claims against Uber.

Farrar, who formed an organization called Worker Info Exchange to help app workers like Uber drivers access their data from companies they work for, said these types of claims could become extremely expensive for the taxi app company. He believes there’ll be a cottage industry of lawyers making continuous claims against Uber “because it’s an easy win.”

He added: “It’s embarrassing that the poorest people on minimum wage have to go to the Supreme Court against one of the most powerful companies on Earth.”

Although Uber did not respond to Insider’s request for comment, the company sent a press release shortly after the ruling, featuring a statement from Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe.

It said: “We respect the court’s decision which focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016. Since then we have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way. These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury.  We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

You can now book a Lyft ride without using the app – just like a taxi

lyft sign
Lyft.

  • Lyft rides in select Florida cities can now be hailed over the phone, like a taxi.
  • Instead of using the app, customers can call 631-201-LYFT to book a ride through a Lyft agent.
  • The new option is “perfect” for seniors or people who can’t use the app, the company says.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Lyft is taking a page out of the taxi playbook by letting people in select Florida cities call for a car instead of using the Lyft app.

The new feature allows passengers to book an on-demand ride by speaking to a Lyft agent at 631-201-LYFT between Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Processes that are needed to hail a Lyft car through the app can then be completed over the phone. This includes making the credit or debit card payment, and verbally agreeing to health protocols implemented during COVID-19.

Instead of tracking the trip’s progress through the app, Lyft will then text its Call A Lyft Ride passengers with ride information and a tracking link that can be shared with other people.

According to Lyft, this new ride hailing option is “perfect” for seniors and people unable to use the app in Florida cities like Boca Raton, Orlando, Miami, and Fort Myers. You can find the full list of eligible cities on Lyft’s website.

This isn’t Lyft’s only app-less ride hailing option: passengers can also request a ride through ride.lyft.com. Like Call A Lyft Ride, users who’ve booked a car through the website will receive texted updates about the journey.

Uber, Lyft’s larger competitor,  has also previously explored bookings off of the app. In 2019 it introduced kiosks in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, allowing passengers to call an Uber car without using their smartphones.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to place an Uber Eats group order and let everyone pick out their own order for a single delivery

Group ordering food on phone
Uber Eats group orders can save you from sharing your phone.

  • Uber Eats’ group order feature lets different users add items to a single order, and have it delivered to a single location.
  • Every person who wants to add items to a Group Order needs to have an Uber Eats account.
  • You can place a group order through the Uber Eats mobile app or the desktop website. 
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Whether it’s getting food from your favorite local restaurant or getting groceries from the store, mobile applications like Uber Eats have been in high demand recently. And for the times you’re not eating alone, splitting the check can be relatively easy with Uber Eats’ group ordering tool. 

The feature lets you send a link to everyone in your party, allowing them to add their order using their own devices. The order can then be paid for by one person, and sent to a single address.

It’s great if you don’t want to pass your phone around to everyone in the room. Just note that everyone involved will need to have their own Uber Eats account.

Here’s how to place a group order on the Uber Eats mobile app and online. 

How to place an Uber Eats group order on the mobile app

1. Open the Uber Eats app.

2. Select a restaurant using the app’s Home dashboard or the search tool. 

3. Once you’ve decided on a restaurant, click the group order button in the top-right hand corner.

UberEatsGroup_Image1
A silhouette of a person represents the group order icon.

4. Determine your delivery address and order spending limit. Then tap “Share group order.” 

UberEatsGroup_Image2
A spending limit will prevent you from being charged beyond a specific amount.

5. A window will appear with mobile sharing options. Share the group order link via text, social media, or email with each member of your group. 

6. After all orders have been submitted, tap “View cart.” 

7. Next, select “Go to checkout.”

Uber Eats Group Order 4
Go to checkout on your Uber Eats order, but only after everyone has finished adding their items.

8. Uber Eats will then ask you to confirm everyone has submitted their order. Choose “Continue” when you’re ready. 

Uber Eats Group Order 5
Ensure everyone has added their items to the cart before locking in your Uber Eats order.

9. After verifying the items and price, hit “Next.”

Uber Eats Group Order 6
Check your payment method before placing your Uber Eats group order.

10. You’ll be asked to select a tip amount, and how you want to pay. Once you’re ready, tap “Place order.” 

How to place an Uber Eats group order through the website

1. Go to Uber Eats on your favorite browser and log in. 

2. Select a restaurant using the app’s Home dashboard or the search tool. 

Uber Eats Group Order 7
The search bars on the app and website are in different places.

3. Choose the restaurant you want to order from. 

4. In the restaurant’s banner image, click the “Start group order” icon. 

Uber Eats Group Order 8
This icon is located above the restaurant description on the far-right.

5. Use the “Edit” buttons to adjust your spending limit or delivery address. 

6. Click “Create order.” 

7. A box will appear with a link. Share it via text, social media, or email with each member of your group. Share the link to allow others to add to the Group Order. 

8. After all orders have been submitted, you can begin checkout and place your order. Just remember that once you head to checkout, you can’t edit the group order without starting from scratch.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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Uber drops 2% after the UK Supreme Court rules that its drivers are employees, not contractors

Uber London - Black cab taxi protest
A black-cab driver waves a Union Jack flag whilst standing on a taxi on London Bridge, during a protest against TfL and Uber.

  • Uber fell as much as 2% on Friday after the UK Supreme Court ruled that its drivers are employees rather than contractors.
  • The ruling entitles Uber drivers to basic worker rights such as holiday pay and a minimum wage.
  • Uber has been fighting this legal battle in the UK since 2016, when two ex-Uber drivers filed a lawsuit against the company.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Uber fell as much as 2% on Friday after the UK Supreme Court ruled that drivers of the ride hailing app are employees, not independent contractors.

The ruling was a blow to Uber, which has been fighting the lawsuit since 2016, when two ex-Uber drivers filed the lawsuit against the company.

The decision from the UK’s highest court entitles Uber drivers to basic worker right like holiday pay and a minimum wage. The UK represents Uber’s largest European market, with more than 40,000 drivers. 

The dispute will now go to a tribunal, which will determine how much the 25 drivers who led the case against Uber will be awarded. 

The ruling could have wide ramifications for workers and companies within the gig economy across Europe. Uber recently won a similar battle in California last year with the Prop 22 ballot initiative.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives believes the UK ruling “revives a nightmare for Uber,” according to a Friday note. 

“This case could set a precedent for other workers and companies in the gig economy throughout the UK and Europe which would be a body blow to the overall ecosystem,” Ives said. 

Uber could be more prepared to handle the UK ruling after it implemented different strategies during the Prop 22 fight in California, like allowing drivers to choose which riders to accept and set their own rates, Ives said. 

The negative development isn’t shaking Ives bullish Outperform rating on Uber. Ives reiterated his $76 price target on the stock, representing potential upside of 29%.

Uber has “cleared many challenges and hurdles over the past 18 months and now is in a position of strength heading into a ‘reopening dynamic’ over the next 6 to 9 months,” Ives said, adding that the UK ruling is a “contained risk.”

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A year into the pandemic, Uber and Lyft drivers say gig companies are still failing them. They blame Prop 22.

GettyImages 1218814557 NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: A driver pauses as city employees fill-up cars with take-away meals to be delivered to the elderly and those that can not leave their housing due to the coronavirus at a community center in Brooklyn on April 14, 2020 in New York City, United States. The National Guard joined other New York City city agencies in loading up taxi's, Uber's, Lyft's and other 'for hire' vehicles which have joined the effort in delivering meals across the city. New York has been the hardest hit city in the nation from the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Rideshare and food delivery drivers working for companies like DoorDash, Uber, and Instacart have complained the companies aren’t providing PPE or pay for the time it takes them to properly clean their vehicles.

  • Uber and Lyft rideshare and food delivery drivers plan to protest Wednesday at Uber’s headquarters.
  • They say the companies won’t provide PPE or pay them for the time it takes to clean their vehicles.
  • San Francisco supervisor Matt Haney plans to propose a law that would require companies to do both.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Rideshare and food delivery drivers are planning to protest Wednesday outside Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco, California, over what they say is gig companies’ continued failure to protect them nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drivers for Lyft, Instacart, Uber, and Uber subsidiary Postmates said in a press release announcing the protest that the companies aren’t providing adequate PPE and have refused to pay them for the time it takes to clean their vehicles.

They said that Proposition 22 – an industry-backed law passed in California in November that classified rideshare and food delivery drivers as contractors, excluding them from certain labor protections and restricting the ability of local governments to regulate gig companies – is largely to blame.

“Eleven months into this pandemic and workers are still asking for the most basic life saving protections for themselves, their families and their communities,” Cherri Murphy, a Lyft driver and organizer with Gig Workers Rising, a co-organizer of the protest, said in a statement. 

“It’s really stressful – I’m always being timed when I’m driving for these companies and if I don’t get places quickly, I can be punished. It’s like the companies don’t care about making sure I have enough time to wash my hands, clean my car, and wipe down surfaces,” Lucas Chamberlain, Instacart driver and member of We Drive Progress, another group behind the protest, said in a statement.

Under Prop 22, drivers aren’t paid for the time they spend waiting for Uber or Lyft to find them a ride or delivery order or sanitizing their vehicles in between jobs. Some gig economy researchers have estimated that loophole could allow companies to pay drivers for just 67% of the hours they actually work. 

“Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Lyft has provided tens of thousands of face masks, cleaning supplies and in-car partitions to drivers at no cost to them, and continue to provide access to these supplies today. Our most active drivers also received a free safety kit, consisting of a reusable cloth face covering, sanitizer and disinfectant,” a Lyft spokesperson told Insider, adding that Lyft doesn’t profit off PPE.

Uber told Insider that it has allocated $50 million toward safety supplies for drivers and said it has provided 30 million masks and other cleaning supplies to drivers worldwide.

But while California law requires most companies to provide PPE and sick pay to their employees and to pay into the state’s unemployment insurance program, Prop 22 classified drivers as contractors, allowing gig companies to save far larger amounts by not having to cover those costs. Uber and Lyft drivers last year claimed they’re owed $630 million in back pay as a result of the misclassification. One study found that between 2014 and 2019, the two companies should have paid $413 million into California’s unemployment insurance fund.

Uber spokesperson Kayla Whaling told Insider the company “has tried to do everything we can to support [independent contractors] while they support our communities, including distributing PPE free of charge, providing financial assistance for those who were diagnosed with COVID-19, helping connect them to new work opportunities on Uber or elsewhere, and consolidating information to help them apply for PPP loans or federal unemployment assistance.”

Still, Uber hasn’t always delivered on those promises, and when it has, it’s often only done so following backlash from drivers, regulators, courts, or the media.

Insider reported last April that, despite Uber’s claims it would pay drivers who tested positive for COVID-19, the company had denied legitimate claims and even locked out drivers who requested sick pay.

In July, a federal judge in New York ruled that Uber and Lyft had delayed the state’s ability to pay drivers unemployment benefits because they had played “games” with its requests for earnings data.

Wednesday’s protest – which Gig Workers Rising and We Drive Progress said will include a socially distanced rally – comes as some lawmakers in California are already pushing for more accountability for gig companies who rely on rideshare and delivery drivers.

San Francisco supervisor Matt Haney said he plans to introduce legislation that would require companies like Uber and Lyft to provide PPE and pay drivers for time they spend cleaning their vehicles.

“In the midst of this devastating pandemic, workers have gone above and beyond to protect themselves and our communities by purchasing protective equipment and cleaning supplies and spending their personal time sanitizing their cars to save lives. It is outrageous that while delivery app corporations continue to rake in profits, workers are forced to shoulder these burdens while struggling to make ends meet,” Haney said in a statement.

Do you work at Uber, Lyft, or another food delivery or rideshare app company? We’d love to hear how your company is navigating challenges brought on by the pandemic. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1 503-319-3213), email (tsonnemaker@insider.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker ). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please.

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