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California Labor Federation Stands with Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Demanding Uber, Instacart and Other Gig Companies Reclassify Workers as Employees

April 1, 2020
Contact: Steve Smith, 510-326-4644

Warren tells CEOs, “You have a responsibility to protect [workers’] health and the public’s health” during the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Oakland, CA — Today the California Labor Federation commended Sen. Elizabeth Warren for joining with workers in demanding Uber, Instacart, Doordash and Grubhub “provide front line delivery workers with the basic rights and protections they would be guaranteed if you classified them as employees rather than independent contractors, including paid sick leave, minimum wages, and essential health and safety precautions.”  She went on to write, “because these workers perform essential delivery work and are critical to serving customers who cannot leave home during the pandemic, you have a responsibility to protect their health and the public’s health.”

“Senator Warren’s demand underscores the staggering economic and human cost of leaving countless drivers with no access to basic worker protections or a social safety net,” said Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation. “Billion-dollar corporations like Uber and Lyft have a moral responsibility to dissolve the $110 million political war chest they’ve amassed to obliterate worker protections, and instead put their millions into making sure working people can get the support they need to weather this crisis.”

In Warren’s letter to company CEOs, reported in Vice today, she warns: “Your company’s misclassification of your workers as independent contractors rather than employees creates inherent risk for workers, who are denied access to unemployment insurance and workers compensation, a minimum wage and overtime, health care benefits, the right to be represented by a union, and the legal protections of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.” She continued, “The impact your misclassification has on workers, and the precarious circumstances it puts them in, is amplified by this pandemic.”

Warren went on to cite California’s AB 5 as a crucial protection for workers “exploited by employer misclassification.”

Warren’s letter comes after labor unions and gig workers have clearly demanded essential worker rights and protections as workers have become first responders to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Monday’s Instacart and Amazon walkouts the latest public action.  To support these workers, The California Labor Federation demands:

  • Gig companies comply with the law. Courts, the legislature and the governor have made it clear that gig company drivers and shoppers are employees. Yet, these billion-dollar companies continue to flout the law, denying basic protections including paid sick days, a minimum wage and adequate safety equipment to gig workers. They need to follow the law or face the consequences of breaking it. Further, these companies must immediately drop their harmful ballot measures that seeks to deny basic protections to their own workers and lower standards for all workers.
  • Gig companies immediately establish a $100 million dollar relief fund to provide drivers in need with resources to help them pay rent, buy groceries and keep the lights on in their homes. Netflix and other firms have contributed hundreds of millions to relief funds yet Uber, Lyft and other gig companies refuse to provide any relief even to their own drivers. The companies have that much sitting in a PAC now. They must drain that account to provide direct relief to drivers.
  • Uber, Lyft and other gig companies stop denying drivers unemployment insurance claims and immediately start contributing to the state’s severely stressed UI fund that’s been overwhelmed with 1.5 million new claims. The gig companies haven’t contributed a dime to UI for drivers and shoppers, even though they are required to do so by law, putting the fund’s solvency for all workers at grave risk.


The California Labor Federation is made up of more than 1,200 unions, representing 2.1 million union members in manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, public sector, health care, entertainment and other industries.


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