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CA appeals court upholds ruling that Uber and Lyft must classify drivers as employees

Uber and Lyft must classify their drivers as employees, an appellate court ruled yesterday evening. However, the decision will be stayed for 30 days after the court issues the remittitur, which has not happened yet. That means depending on how ballot measure Proposition 22 goes, this case may not end up being the deciding factor in how Lyft and Uber classify their drivers in California.

Throughout the case, Uber and Lyft have argued that reclassifying their drivers as employees would cause irreparable harm to the companies. In the ruling today, the judge said neither company would suffer any “grave or irreparable harm by being prohibited from violating the law” and that their respective financial burdens “do not rise to the level of irreparable harm.”

Additionally, there is nothing in the preliminary injunction, according to the judge, that would prevent Uber and Lyft from offering flexibility and independence to their drivers. Lastly, the judge said Uber and Lyft have had plenty of time to transition their drivers from independent contractors to employees, given that the key case in passing AB 5, the gig worker bill that spurred this lawsuit, was decided in 2018.

“This ruling makes it more urgent than ever for voters to stand with drivers and vote yes on Prop. 22,” Lyft spokesperson Julie Wood said in a statement to TechCrunch.

Prop 22 is a ballot measure in California that seeks to keep rideshare drivers and delivery workers classified as independent contractors. The measure, if passed, would make drivers and delivery workers for said companies exempt from a new state law that classifies them as W-2 employees. If passed, app-based transportation and delivery workers would be entitled to things like minimum compensation and healthcare subsidies based on engaged driving time.

Meanwhile, Lyft says it’s exploring all of its legal options, which may include appealing to the California Supreme Court. Uber, similarly, is considering its appeal options.

“Today’s ruling means that if the voters don’t say Yes on Proposition 22, rideshare drivers will be prevented from continuing to work as independent contractors, putting hundreds of thousands of Californians out of work and likely shutting down ridesharing throughout much of the state,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We’re considering our appeal options, but the stakes couldn’t be higher for drivers—72% of whom support Prop 22—and for the California economy, where millions of people are jobless and another 158,000 just sought unemployment support this week.”

The judge’s decision comes after California Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman granted a preliminary injunction in August to force Uber and Lyft to reclassify its drivers as employees. Uber and Lyft appealed the decision, but the appeals court has now affirmed the decision from the lower court.

The lawsuit was brought forth by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with city attorneys from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco in May. They argued Uber and Lyft gain an unfair and unlawful competitive advantage by misclassifying workers as independent contractors. Then, in June, the plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction seeking the court to force Uber and Lyft to reclassify their drivers. In August, Judge Schulman granted it.

“While this legal victory today is directed at two companies, this fight is far broader,” Gig Workers Rising said in a statement. “This is about the future of work in this country. This is about securing good jobs with real benefits for generations to come. If Uber and Lyft are successful in passing Prop. 22 and undo the will of the people, they will inspire countless other corporations to adapt their business models and misclassify workers in order to further enrich the wealthy few at the expense of their workforce.”

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Malaysian on-demand work platform GoGet lands $2 million Series A

GoGet, a Malaysian on-demand work platform, announced today that it has raised a $2 million Series A led by Monk’s Hill Ventures. The platform currently has 20,000 gig workers, who are called “GoGetters,” and has onboarded 5,000 businesses, including Lazada Malaysia, IKEA Malaysia, Foodpanda and flower delivery service BloomThis.

While Malaysia has other on-demand work platforms, including Supahands and Kaodim, each has its own niche. Supahands focuses on online tasks, while Kaodim offers professional services like home repairs, catering and fitness training. GoGet is more similar to TaskRabbit, with GoGetters performing errands or temp work like deliveries, moving large items, catering at events, data entry and office administration.

Chief executive officer and co-founder Francesca Chia founded GoGet in 2014. The startup decided to focus on gig workers because there is a labor gap in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, she told TechCrunch.

“Today, the majority of ASEAN’s labor market are low- to middle-skilled, and the majority are not protected with job security, future career paths and financial services such as insurance and savings,” she said. “At the other end of the spectrum, over 70% of employment in ASEAN are from SMEs, who seek to scale without scaling full-time costs, and find it difficult to train and maintain a reliable pool of staff.”

GoGet wants to bridge the gap by connecting businesses with verified flexible workers, she added. GoGetters are able to switch between different categories of work, which Chia said gives the ability to learn new skills. Companies are provided with management features that include the ability to create a list of GoGetters they want to work with again and tools for recruiting, training and payment.

The Series A will be used to expand GoGet in Malaysia. One of the things many companies whose business models revolve around the gig economy need to grapple with as they scale include workers who are frustrated by uneven work, low pay and the lack of benefits they would receive as full-time employees. In California, for example, this has resulted in a political battle as companies like Uber, DoorDash and Lyft try to roll back legislation that would force them to classify more gig workers as full-time employees.

Chia said GoGet’s “vision is to bring flexible work to the world in a sustainable manner.” Part of this entails giving GoGet’s gig workers access to benefits like on-demand savings and insurance plans that are similar to what full-time employees receive. GoGet’s platform also has career-building features, including online trainings and networking tools, so workers can prepare for jobs that require different skill sets.

While GoGet’s short-term plan is to focus on growth in Malaysia, it eventually plans to enter other ASEAN countries, too.

In a press statement about the investment, Monk’s Hill Ventures co-founder and managing partner Kuo-Yi Lim said, “The nature of work is being redefined as companies and workers seek both flexibility and fit. This trend has been accelerated by the pandemic, as businesses are transforming in response and require more elastic workforce. GoGet provides a community of motivated and well-trained workers, but more importantly, its platform extends the corporate people management systems to ensure quality, compliance and seamless workflow.”

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Shipt shoppers are organizing a walkout in protest of new pay model

Shipt shoppers are organizing a handful of actions in protest of Shipt’s new pay structure that began rolling out this month.  The first action is happening from Saturday, Oct. 17 through Oct. 19, when workers are calling on their fellow Shipt shoppers to walk out and boycott the company. Organizers are asking for shoppers not to schedule any hours or accept any orders during that time.

“Our goal is to draw attention to the fact that this pay scale really does affect shoppers and regardless of Shipt’s position of it taking into account effort and benefitting shoppers, we are finding it is the opposite on both fronts,” Willy Solis, a Shipt shopper in Dallas and lead organizer at Gig Workers Collective, told TechCrunch. “It’s not holding up to the true reality. We are getting paid less for more effort.”

Shipt shoppers also plan to stage a direct action at Target’s corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Monday, October 19. During the action, shoppers plan to read letters written to Shipt CEO Kelly Caruso that describe how the pay changes have impacted them.

“We have communicated to shoppers that we have learned a lot in the six years we have been in business,” Shipt spokesperson Molly Snyder told TechCrunch in a statement. “Our previous pay model was a commission model that paid based on the cost of the basket or the order. We know how much effort goes into shopping and delivering and believe that we should compensate for that effort. The new model accounts for that effort by factoring in things like the order complexity, what market it is in and the day and time of week. Shoppers will always see the pay range for the shop, the address where they would need to deliver it, a list of all of the items in the shop and the delivery window timeframe. Shoppers can choose whether or not they want to accept an order.”

Shipt shoppers have been speaking out against this new pay model since earlier this year, after Shipt started testing this new pay structure. In February, a Shipt shopper from Kalamazoo told me they were losing about 30% or more of their regular pay as a result of the change.

According to Target-owned Shipt, it’s doing this to “better account for the actual effort it takes to complete and deliver orders,” Shipt wrote in the Shipt Shopper Hub. That means the new pay model takes into account estimated drive time from the store to the customer’s door, how many items are in the order, location, peak shopping windows and more. But Shipt isn’t sharing an exact formula for calculating pay because “each metro has unique characteristics that can affect the shopping experience.”

On the blog, Shipt also points to how similarly priced orders might pay differently as a result of the effort it takes. For example, if the order total is $100 but is only one item versus 30 items, the latter order scenario would take more effort. That means the shopper would get paid more for that order with more items. But Solis said that’s an anomaly and that the majority of shoppers don’t receive orders like that.

“To base an entire pay structure off of an anomaly like that is really concerning,” he said.

Meanwhile, Solis said he’s found discrepancies between the way Shipt talks about its formula for calculating pay. In July, Shipt published a blog post about shop time. In it, the company laid out how it thinks about things like the location of the item, size of store and more. In the original post, which has since been updated, Shipt said it did not take into account checkout time, nor was it trying to gain insight about it.

Image Credits: Willy Solis/Screenshot

After shoppers expressed frustration about it in a Facebook group, Solis noticed that Shipt deleted that part from its blog post.

Image Credits: Willy Solis/Screenshot

“They literally said they are not interested in taking into account checkout times, which is a considerable amount of time shoppers spend in stores,” Solis said.

Shipt shoppers have staged actions before, but Solis said this one is receiving the most support to date. As part of the call-to-action, Gig Workers Collective is also asking Shipt shoppers to spread the word to at least five other workers they know.

“We are continuing to listen to shopper feedback, but can tell you that we are consistently seeing increasing numbers of shoppers putting themselves on the schedule to shop, accepting, shopping and delivering orders,” Snyder said.

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Uber and Lyft face worker misclassification lawsuit from CA Attorney General and city attorneys

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra along with city attorneys from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco are filing a lawsuit asserting Uber and Lyft gain an unfair and unlawful competitive advantage by misclassifying workers as independent contractors, they announced today. The lawsuit seeks $2,500 in penalties for each violation under the California Unfair Competition Law, and another $2,500 for violations against senior citizens or people with disabilities.

“The companies, we believe and argue are shirking their obligation to their workforce,” Becerra said in a call today. By skirting those obligations, Becerra said, Uber and Lyft are shifting the costs to California taxpayers.

This lawsuit comes after Uber and Lyft have spent millions of dollars to try to combat California law AB 5, which makes it harder for tech companies to classify workers as independent contractors.

Labor issues have been front and center amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Just yesterday, Amazon Web Services VP Tim Bray resigned from the company, citing Amazon’s firings of employees that were critical of the company. Meanwhile, gig workers have organized a number of strikes and protests to demand basic workplace protections like masks and gloves while they’re on the job.

But Uber and Lyft drivers have long been advocating for themselves. Last year, as both Uber and Lyft were gearing up to make their debuts on the public market, drivers staged a number of protests to demand better pay, benefits and the right to form a union.

We’ve reached out to Uber and Lyft and will update this story if we hear back.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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NYC is offering gig workers delivery jobs during COVID-19 pandemic

To help gig workers make ends meet during these times of job insecurity amid COVID-19, New York City is offering gig workers who are licensed with the TLC to help with delivery work.
While the demand for drivers is currently small, NYC says it expects demand to increase for meal …

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Gig workers have created a tool to offer mutual aid during COVID-19 pandemic

Despite cities and states across the nation ordering people to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, gig workers are still out there delivering food to people and giving them rides for essential errands. Some companies have begun offering paid sick leave to workers but there’s more to be …

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Is Instacart’s wider rollout of Pickup an attempt to sidestep labor laws?

Earlier today, Instacart more widely rolled out its Pickup product, which enables customers to retrieve groceries directly from stores. The announcement comes just a day after Instacart shoppers unveiled their latest action to #DeleteInstacart, another step in the ongoing series of protests against the grocery startup’s wage and tipping practices.

Next Monday, Instacart workers are asking customers and the general public to tweet at Instacart, telling the company they will delete Instacart until the company meets their demands. They wrote:

We have fought for fair pay, but Instacart continues to lower it. This current protest only has one small demand — to raise the app’s default tip amount back to 10%. This is the same default setting Instacart had originally, but the company has repeatedly lowered it (as well as resorted to outright theft) to take it away from us. Combined with their recent bonus-cutting act of retaliation, workers are now bleeding out of both sides — our pay is too low AND the default tip amount is too low.

In a statement, Instacart said it’s tested a number of default tip options over the years, including a 10% default, no default and a 5% default. That has been in place for the last two years.

“Ultimately, we believe customers should have the choice to determine the tip amount they choose to give a shopper based on the experience they have,” an Instacart spokesperson said. “The default amount serves as a baseline for a shopper’s potential tip, and can be increased to any amount by the customer.”

In light of a new California gig worker protections law, which Instacart opposes, the greater push into pickup services could be a way for the company to beef up its argument that gig workers are free from the control of Instacart, and that its part-time workers* do the bulk of what Instacart says is its fastest-growing business.

Source: TechCrunch