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.

The move follows the collapse of similar efforts in California and New York amid resistance from other unions and worker advocates, who argued that gig drivers should not compromise for second-class status.

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

But the minimum wage will not cover the time they spend working in a car without a passenger – a significant portion of most drivers’ days. And like independent contractors, they could not unionize under federal law.

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.

There was a possibility of a ballot in the background of legal proceedings in the state of Washington that could bring similar changes with weak benefits for drivers. After California passed a law in 2019 that effectively classifies gig workers as employees, Uber, Lift, and other gig companies spent nearly $ 200 million on voting criteria that withdrew those protections. The law is still in force after a state judge ruled it unconstitutional.

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