In Boston, Uber and Lyft drivers renewed their fight for employee classification from Uber and Lyft. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, benefits like paid sick leave are even more important to rideshare drivers now.
In mid-March, drivers won the ability to pursue wage claims against rideshare companies. On April 6, drivers in Boston demanded the state recognize them as employees of Uber and Lyft—requiring the companies to provide them with paid sick leave per Massachusetts law.
Currently, Uber and Lyft classify their drivers as independent contractors. This means that they are ineligible for traditional employee benefits like paid time off, sick leave, and qualifying for unemployment. Because of the pandemic, drivers are not being compensated with the decrease in demand for rides. While both companies have released information regarding relief for drives diagnosed with COVID-19, nothing has been said about other drivers.
According to WGBH News, in an effort to draw awareness to their demands, drivers in Boston staged a driving protest, where they drove in coordination from the Boston Commons to Logan Airport and back into center city. Members of the protest sent a letter to Attorney General Maura Healey, requesting an injunction that would require Uber and Lyft to grant drivers sick pay.
According to a statement from Henry De Groot, executive director of the Boston Independent Drivers Guild, “As many of the thousands of drivers in the state of Massachusetts live paycheck-to-paycheck already, the coronavirus pandemic puts drivers in an increasingly precarious position. […] We urge you to immediately seek damages from Uber and Lyft for violations of employment law over the previous period, thereby providing an economic stimulus package that will support drivers in this time of crisis.”
In response, both Massachusetts’ senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey voiced their support for rideshare drivers. They believe drivers should have labor rights and that Uber and Lyft are jeopardizing public health in the name of profit.
On a federal level, there is a growing movement to grant drivers labor rights. Prior to that decision that granted rideshare drivers the right to pursue wage claims against the companies they work for, drivers had to settle claims through private arbitration.
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