Washington State Advances Landmark Deal on Gig Drivers’ Job Status

The Washington State Senate on Friday passed a bill providing certain benefits and protections while preventing gig drivers from being classified as employees – a long-standing priority for ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lift.

Although the vote paved the way for the final passage after the state House of Representatives passed the same criteria last week, the two bills still have to be settled before they can be sent to the governor for approval. Govt. Jay Insley has not said whether he wants to sign the law.

Mike Folk, for Mr. Insley said Friday that the governor’s office generally “does not anticipate the bill’s proceedings,” adding that “once legislators send it to our office, we will evaluate it.”

Senate legislation – the result of a compromise between companies and at least one leading local union, the Teamsters – was approved by 40 to 8.

In a statement, John Scersey, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 117, said the union was “proud to stand in solidarity with Uber and lift drivers in winning their wage demands” and other benefits.

Uber and Lift noted in regulatory filings that drivers would be forced to change their business models because they needed to be classified as employees and that they could be financially exposed. They have demanded similar compromises in the states, including California and New York, but those efforts have met with resistance from other unions and labor advocates, who have argued that gig drivers should not compromise for second-class status. Many of those lawyers also criticized the Washington Bill.

“While the bill provides some benefits to drivers, it will permanently lock the door on drivers accessing their rights as employees,” said Brian Chen of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group. “It’s a misstep with serious consequences, about how fast this bill is moving in the legislature.”

Under the settlement, drivers will receive benefits such as paid sick leave and a minimum pay rate. The bill would also create a process for drivers to appeal so-called deactivation, preventing them from finding work through companies’ applications.

While the minimum wage rates only apply to drivers who spend time with a passenger in a car, proponents of the bill say the rates are set so high that drivers can reasonably be compensated for all of their work after costs. The rate will be adjusted periodically keeping in view the increase in life cost.

Like other contractors, drivers must cover all payroll taxes and cannot unionize under federal law.

The bill is largely silent on the unemployment benefits that employees are entitled to, but the state of Washington has repeatedly found that gig drivers should already receive those benefits. The bill would create a task force to study what the contribution of gig companies should be to the unemployment insurance trust fund, which is a contentious issue in other states.

A particularly controversial feature of the bill is that it would block local jurisdictions from controlling drivers’ rights. The same symptom helped provoke protests that killed the prospect of such a bill in New York State last year.

Seattle enacted a strong minimum wage law for gig drivers in 2020, which aims to pay drivers about પહેલાં 30 an hour before spending, and has been sharply criticized by gig companies. The statewide bill, approved Friday, retains current rates in Seattle, which will continue higher than the rest of the state. But will make a similar law in the future.

There was a possibility of ballot measurement in the background of legal proceedings in Washington State which could lock the position of the contractor with weak benefits for the drivers. After California passed a law in 2019 that effectively classifies gig workers as employees, Uber, Lift, and other gig companies spent about $ 200 million on the ballot measure, Proposition 22, which revoked those protections. The law is still in force after a state judge ruled it unconstitutional.

Representative Liz Berry, who introduced the Washington State Bill, said the differences between him and Proposition 22 “could not be more acute.”

“My focus is: what do the workers want? What do the drivers want? And we deliver everything they want,” she said. “Contrary to California law, our bill has real benefits that Washington State employees enjoy,” Barry said in an interview.

Jane Hansley, head of government relations for the lift, said in a statement that the bill was “a solution that Washington State drivers strongly support.” Not only does it deliver meaningful new benefits, it also extends security that is important to them. “

But some Washington legislators were skeptical.

Ahead of Friday’s vote, Senator Mike Padden, who opposed the bill, was concerned about the speed of the approval process. “I have some concerns about the bill, but I also have some concerns about not being able to check it properly,” he said.

Rep. Debra Antenman, the only Democrat in Washington’s House of Representatives to vote against the bill, said in a statement after its passage to the Senate: Who often rely on rideshare companies due to inadequate public transportation options. “

Worker advocates are concerned that other states will try to copy the law. “I hope Governor Insley will ask for an additional analysis of its potential impact,” said Terry Gersten, a Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program workers’ rights lawyer. “I would urge other states not to use this bill or cursory public procedure as a model.”

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