Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi asked President Trump and congressional leaders on Monday to include financial assistance for independent contractors in the upcoming fiscal stimulus plan that’s intended to offset the economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The request comes as Uber has seen a sudden drop in ridership as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The ride-sharing company is seeing gross bookings drop by about 60 to 70 percent in cities hit hardest by the virus, according to The Verge, and has suspended its carpooling service, UberPool, in most major markets. It’s also providing financial assistance for drivers who have contracted COVID-19 or have been asked to self-quarantine by public health officials.
“It is with that responsibility in mind that I respectfully and urgently request that the economic stimulus you are considering, along with any other future legislative measures in response to COVID-19, include protections and benefits for independent workers, not just employees,” Khosrowshahi wrote in the letter.
“My goal in writing to you is not to ask for a bailout for Uber, but rather for support for the independent workers on our platform and, once we move past the immediate crisis, the opportunity to legally provide them with a real safety net going forward,” he added.
The $2 trillion bill under consideration would send checks of up to $1,200 to taxpayers who earn less than $99,000 a year, provide loans for small businesses and large tax cuts for big corporations. Millions of gig economy workers and delivery people are currently excluded from the package.
Because Uber’s drivers and delivery workers are classified as independent contractors, the company is not required to pay for health insurance and other employee benefits.
In January, California implemented a law, known as AB5, which made it more difficult for gig economy companies to classify their workers as contractors.
But Uber and other gig companies like Lyft and the food delivery platform Postmates pushed back against the law, saying workers liked the flexibility that the jobs offered them. Khosrowshahi, in his letter, called on lawmakers to update the system and create a “third way” to protect gig economy workers.
“Put simply, our laws should protect all workers, not just one type of work. While I recognize that the Administration and Congress have many pressing issues before them, I urge you to act quickly to provide protections for independent workers, and, in your ongoing efforts, to consider legislative action on a ‘third way’ that would update our labor laws,” he wrote.