A lot of controversy has arisen between the unions after several unions joined Uber and Lyft to develop legislation in New York State that it would meet one of the main employment goals: to give many workers a fast track to unionization.
The legislation would meet another labor goal: to allow industry-wide bargaining for concert workers, specifically the roughly 250,000 app-based drivers and food delivery workers in New York.
But many union leaders and worker advocates have denounced the legislation, saying it comes at too high a price.
The legislation does not meet the labor objective of defining these workers as employees, a measure that would give them protection under the minimum wage and anti-discrimination laws. They also complain that the legislation contains language that would prohibit app-based drivers and delivery workers from going on strike. Critics further claim that the legislation would undermine the number one goal of labor across the country: getting Congress to enact the Protection of the Right to Organize Act (Pro Act), a bill that would make it much easier for workers to organize.
The lead author of the New York legislation, State Sen. Diane Savino, a former union official, said she was eager to find a way to unionize concert workers and improve their lives.
“We want to focus on the people who are most at risk in the concert economy: riders and delivery workers,” Savino told The Guardian. Savino, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island, said he supports the Pro Act and in no way wants to undermine it.
The main union behind the legislation, the International Association of Machinists, maintains that the bill would be a bridge to the Pro Act. “This helps with the Pro Act,” said Brendan Sexton, executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild, a branch of the Machinists who struck a deal with Uber in 2016 to represent Uber drivers in New York City. (Uber provides money to help fund the group.)
“When the Pro Act passes, we will already have 250,000 workers in a union who know what it means to get the benefits of a union and the collective voice of a union,” said Sexton. “When you ask the critics, what is the best way to raise the voice of concert workers, how will you give them work power, they keep silent.”
State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who represents a borough in Queens with many immigrants and many drivers and app-based delivery workers, opposes the legislation.
“It really breaks my heart to see how my neighbors were completely left out of a deal where the companies decided that they would somehow be considered second-class workers under the law.” Ramos, who chairs the Senate working committee, said he would seek to block the legislation, which supporters hope will be enacted before the legislature is lifted on June 10.
Ramos said: “There is no way on earth New York is going to the right of Joe Biden on a worker issue. We cannot undermine the Pro Act. We cannot be complicit in helping Uber and Uber Eats create an exception to the Pro Act. “
The Pro Act would make it much easier to classify Uber and Lyft drivers and delivery workers as employees. New York law seeks to walk the tightrope, with tech companies arguing that concert workers are independent contractors and not employees, the law does not define them in any of the groups, but rather calls them “workers of the net”. Under federal law, employees have the right to unionize, but independent contractors do not. The concert workers’ bill would give New York the go-ahead for their unionization and help them overcome any complaints that they are violating antitrust laws by conspiring to set wage and benefit levels. Under the legislation, once the drivers union or delivery workers union reaches an agreement with the industry, a five-person state board would decide whether to adopt those recommendations.
Under the legislation, once 10% of state app-based drivers or delivery workers sign cards supporting a union, that union would be designated as the exclusive bargaining agent for all drivers or delivery workers. in the state. To fund unions, the law requires a fee of 10 cents per trip or delivery, generating tens of millions of dollars annually for a union.
Bhairavi Desai, co-founder of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a union representing 15,000 taxi drivers, said: “There are many flaws in this legislation. What it essentially does is relegate drivers to second-class status at all levels of labor law, from wages to safety to bargaining rights. In fact, on wages and unemployment, it rolls back rights that we have painfully earned. “
Savino says the legislation would provide better workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance coverage for concert workers, but critics point out that the legislation would allow concert companies to pay less than half what other companies pay for insurance. unemployment.
Desai and other critics point to several provisions that they found particularly objectionable.
Legislative language suggests that the Independent Drivers Guild of Machinists would be the only group that qualifies to represent drivers. The legislation says that any union representing drivers must have “demonstrated experience in representing network workers or other related workers to reach agreements with companies for at least five years.”
Another complaint: Tech companies that negotiate with drivers and couriers would be exempt from city or county minimum wage laws (including New York City’s $ 17.47 hourly minimum wage for drivers based In applications). Tech companies would also be exempt from regular state employment laws on discrimination and other employment issues.
Under the law, if drivers or couriers decide not to submit to arbitration during contract disputes and reject the companies’ latest and greatest offer, the union would be decertified; This provision puts enormous pressure on workers to accept the offer from the companies. The law requires companies to sign labor peace agreements in which companies promise not to fight unionization and the union agrees not to participate in strikes or boycotts.
Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, compared the legislation to “Proposition 22,” but to union membership and a ban on collective action “(Proposition 22 was a successful ballot initiative backed by the California company that defines Uber and Lyft dryers as contractors, not employees.) “I don’t want to believe that any union leader would support this,” Dubal said.
Sixteen labor and progressive groups, including the United Auto Workers, Make the Road New York, the National Employment Law Project and the New York Civil Liberties Union, issued a statement Tuesday condemning the legislation. “This bill would set a dangerous precedent for the country,” they said. “Make no mistake, if these companies win in New York State, they will attempt to replicate these exclusions from labor law nationally, putting millions of workers at risk and undermining the momentum of the Pro Act.”
Proponents of the New York legislation say no-strike language applies only before the union is certified, but not during collective bargaining. But many read that language differently.
John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union, has openly endorsed the legislation. But after hearing criticism that the bill would ban strikes during collective bargaining, he told The Guardian: “I cannot support a law with language that prohibits collective action. It is the only way to influence what is happening at the negotiating table. “
Uber, Lyft and DoorDash did not respond to emails requesting their views on the New York legislation.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism