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Drivers Claim Uber & Lyft ‘Owe Them Millions’ In Wage Theft - More Than 100 Ride-Share Drivers In California Are Asking To Be ‘Reclassified As Employees’ And Receive Three Years' Back Pay From Uber & Lyft

Published Tuesday, February 11, 2020
by Lauren Kaori Gurley/
Drivers Claim Uber & Lyft ‘Owe Them Millions’ In Wage Theft - More Than 100 Ride-Share Drivers In California Are Asking To Be ‘Reclassified As Employees’ And Receive Three Years' Back Pay From Uber & Lyft

(THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA) - Christopher Arellano was one of the first Gig Workers to sign up for Lyft when it launched in San Francisco in 2012.  Since then, he’s given more than 26,000 rides on the App, but he’s never been reimbursed for gas or the wear-and-tear on his car - and often, he earns less than San Francisco’s $15.59 an hour Minimum Wage.

To make matters worse, he’s never seen a raise.

In fact, his wages have steadily dropped since he began driving for the App in 2012.

But last week, Arellano and more than 100 other Uber and Lyft Drivers filed wage theft claims amounting to millions of dollars at the California Labor Commissioner Offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

They are asking to be reclassified as Employees and receive three years' back pay for Minimum Wage and overtime violations, and other expenses accrued on the job - such as the costs of gasoline.

“We’ve ‘taken so many pay cuts throughout the years.’  ‘It feels good to stand up for your rights and dignity,’” said Arellano. “It ‘feels like standing up to a high school bully.’”

The Wage Theft Campaign People’s Enforcement of AB5 organized with the Grassroots Driver Group Rideshare Drivers United, which now has more than 10,000 Driver Members in California and is part of attempt to push the State of California to enforce a controversial Law that went into effect on January 1st - known as AB5.

The Law is intended to reclassify Gig Workers from Independent Contractors to Employees, granting them a whole new set of Labor Rights and protections they had previously been denied - but, so far though, little has changed.

“I’ve been driving for thirty-five hours plus a week since 2012.  ‘As you can imagine, they owe me a lot,’” said Arellano, the Lyft Driver from San Francisco and an Organizer with Rideshare Drivers United. “But for me, ‘it’s also a much broader issue,’ I ‘want them to implement’ AB5. ‘We’re trying to organize this Driver-led campaign to force the state to comply and with the wage claims, they have the opportunity to enforce the law.’”

In some instances, individual Drivers say they’re owed more than $100,000.

Rideshare Drivers United says that the total amount filed for could be up to $3 or $4 million.

AB5 and a 2018 California Supreme Court ruling, known as Dynamex, make it difficult for gig companies to claim their Workers aren’t employees - but Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Postmates have spent millions on overturning the Bill.  

They argue that providing Workers with these benefits would destroy their business models and reduce worker flexibility.

The National Industrial Union, Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), which represents roughly 150,000 Transit Sector Workers in the United States, including the country’s first Bikeshare Unions, teamed up with Rideshare Drivers United to help support Workers filing the wage theft claims.

The Union says it’s vying to Unionize Uber and Lyft Drivers if they are reclassified as Employees.

Independent Contractors do not have collective bargaining rights and cannot form Unions, thus Lyft and Uber Drivers must wait to be reclassified before they can join Unions.

“We ‘locked arms with’ Ride Share Drivers ‘for them to be classified as direct Employees rather than contractors,’” TWU President John Samuelsen told Motherboard. “We ‘organize across all’ transport sectors in America ‘and we haven’t been bashful about saying it.’  ‘We’re in the organizing business.’  ‘Our goal is to have Ride Share Drivers become part of the TWU umbrella.’”

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