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Uber and Lyft pilots demonstrate for better working conditions


Uber drivers at a previous protest outside the company's headquarters in San Francisco.

Dara Kerr / CNET

Drivers of giant Uber and rival Lyft hold protest Friday in downtown San Francisco they seek better conditions of both companies. Workers in the big economy demand higher wages and a union from both companies.

In an open letter issued to coincide with the protest, the drivers asked Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, and Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer, to change their treatment. The drivers plan to present this letter at the event, which is due to start at Uber headquarters at 10:30 am Pacific time.

"Drivers need a place at the table as equal partners to chart our course," said representatives of Gig Workers Rising and Mobile Workers Alliance, two groups of drivers. "It's time for Uber and Lyft to do what's right for us."

The protest comes as California examines the Assembly's Law 5, which could allow drivers to be classified as employees, rather than as independent contractors as they currently are. As employees, drivers would be entitled to benefits and would have the right to organize collectively.

The Assembly, the lower house of California, spent the AB 5 at the end of May. He is currently in the Senate of the State.

Both companies had previously requested that existing legislation be amended to allow for more benefits, including paid vacation and retirement planning, regardless of classification. They also supported the creation of a new driver association that would represent the interests of the drivers and administer the benefits.

Lyft says that he recognizes the concerns of drivers.

"Lyft advocates for an approach consistent with the interests of our driver community, by modernizing century-old labor laws that make it difficult to provide flexibility and benefits," the company said in a statement. "It's encouraging that more groups are joining the conversation to preserve driver flexibility while offering new benefits and protections."

Uber echoed the feeling.

"We will continue to work with our diverse community of drivers – and lawmakers who represent them – to improve the quality and safety of self-employment," said an Uber representative in a statement.

The Coalition I'm Independent, a project of the California Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that she was not opposed to AB 5 "but pleaded for a modern approach that protects what interests most drivers – flexibility – while developing modern work protections such as social benefits and wage transparency ". The coalition supports independent contractors, including drivers Uber and Lyft, who wish to remain independent.

The issue of classifying workers in gig has been simmering for years and lawsuits have been filed against Uber and Lyft. Several cities and states have looked into the issue, and New York City passed minimum wage laws for drivers last year.

In May, the National Labor Relations Commission stated that drivers should be classified as entrepreneurs instead of employees.

Originally released on July 19 at 10:10 am Pacific Time.
Updated, 10:47: Adds an Uber statement. Updated, 11:33: Add a comment from the Coalition I am independent.

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