On February 18, 2021, rideshare and delivery drivers gathered in San Francisco outside of Uber’s headquarters to demand adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional compensation for the time it takes to disinfect vehicles between rides and deliveries.
To highlight what they describe as a lack of action from rideshare and delivery companies during the coronavirus pandemic, dozens of drivers blocked off Market Street. They turned off their apps for approximately two hours.
One of the Lyft drivers who participated, Cherri Murphy, spoke with CBS News about the protest: “Eleven months into this pandemic and workers are still asking for the most basic life-saving protections for themselves, their families, and their communities.”
To demonstrate the challenges, organizers handed out masks and cleaning supplies to drivers. They wiped down their vehicles to show how long it takes to keep themselves and customers safe. On average, drivers spent 10 to 15 minutes using wipes and cleaning spray to disinfect their cars.
In the summer of 2020, Uber claimed to have set aside $50 million to purchase health and safety supplies for its workers. According to a spokesperson, the company has already sent 21 million masks, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and gloves to one million drivers in the United States and Canada: “The workers have been providing critical services during the pandemic and we’ve been working and doing our best to support them while they’re supporting communities.”
A DoorDash spokesperson also commented on the actions its company has taken: “We continue to provide COVID-19 support for Dashers, including PPE, such as masks, gloves, wipes, and hand sanitizer.” According to that spokesperson, PPE items are free for delivery drivers and can be ordered every week.
While the city and county of San Francisco require employers to provide basic PPE or reimburse them for PPE expenses, gig economy workers feel like not much is being done to ensure companies comply with those mandates. According to Gig Workers Rising, a campaign that supports app-based workers, the lack of action on the part of Uber, Lyft, and other companies “is largely due to the passage of last year’s Proposition 22, which legally classified app workers as independent contractors and stripped them of many rights and protections that employees are entitled to. With new restrictions on the ability of local governments to protect drivers in the aftermath of Prop 22, drivers fear that conditions will only deteriorate.”