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Business Alliance establishes relief fund for gig workers

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The Hot 8 Brass Band enters the stage at Tipitina’s on Dec. 19, 2019. Musicians are among the workers severely affected by the coronavirus-related closures. (Zach Brien, UptownMessenger.com)

From the New Orleans Business Alliance

As a result of the current and anticipated local economic impact of COVID-19, the New Orleans Business Alliance, or NOLABA, has set up a dedicated relief fund to meet the needs of gig economy workers who have been directly affected via loss of income.

NOLABA is committing $100,000 to initiate the fund, with the goal of increasing its assets to a minimum of $500,000. The organization is also charging the New Orleans community to participate by encouraging business leaders, philanthropy and concerned residents to contribute here to increase the potential impact of this critical relief effort.

As of 2017, gig economy workers represent more than 8% of the workforce in Orleans Parish, including rideshare drivers, musicians, arena workers and festival production staff. As contract employees of often large corporations, gig economy workers tend to lack access to minimum wage, paid sick leave, overtime pay, and standard employee benefits — making them particularly susceptible to changes within the economy.

In New Orleans, many of these workers depend on the cultural calendar for reliable income. With the cancellations and postponements of many large local events on the horizon due to coronavirus, this community stands to lose out on millions of dollars of potential income, directly impacting their livelihoods and well-being.

The establishment of this relief fund will help ensure that these critical members of the community may continue to be active participants in the New Orleans economy, and rest assured that their families will be taken care of during this difficult time.

“At the Business Alliance, we know that New Orleans’ greatest asset is its people. Therefore, working to address the issues they face, particularly those that impair their economic opportunity and stability, has always been and remains our top priority,” said NOLABA President & CEO Quentin Messer Jr. “We recognize that this fund will only be part of the solution for most families, and will stand alongside Mayor Cantrell and the City Council to aggressively fight for additional resources as the federal response is solidified. To our neighbors throughout New Orleans, we see you, we support you, and we will get through this together.”

“The impact COVID-19 will have on all our people is going to be real, especially those who work in hospitality and in the gig economy,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “I want to thank the New Orleans Business Alliance for recognizing the dependence our gig-workers have on a cultural calendar that has shifted and for stepping up in a real way. I urge all organizations and businesses who can contribute to the relief fund to do so. Now more than ever, we need to stand with and continue to lift up our people any way we can.”

“Getting the virus under control is only the beginning – the lingering economic damage is only beginning to come into view. Prioritizing relief for our working people is essential. This is just one step in that fight to sustain and uplift our people through this crisis,” said Council President Helena Moreno.

“This pandemic is affecting communities across the globe, but especially here in New Orleans where our economy relies so heavily on large-scale events and tourism activities. What will set us apart, however, is how we choose to deal with and overcome the challenges we face as a result of COVID-19,” said Council Vice President Jason Williams. “As I’ve said before, our response to this crisis will dictate not only our physical health but our fiscal health, and I am immensely grateful to our partners at NOLABA for taking this first important stride toward recovery. Unlike anywhere else in the world, New Orleans has proven time and time again her unrelenting resiliency in the face of crisis, and we expect no different from this incident. In the meantime, this relief fund will provide critical assistance for workers and families to get back on their feet.

“This is at least one step by the business community to help those who are directly affected by the local spread of coronavirus,” said District A Councilmember Joe Giarrusso.

“We have a tremendous amount of our population that is going to be adversely affected and will not be able to work. I strongly encourage anyone who has any available resources or any resources that they can lend to this effort to please do so. Thank you to NOLABA for taking this initiative. We’re all in this together, and we will all get through this together,“ said District B Councilmember Jay H. Banks.

“During an unprecedented crisis, it’s critical we do not forget those workers who are the backbone of what makes New Orleans such a special and vibrant place,” said District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. “I want to applaud NOLABA for setting up this fund, and my office will be supporting them in their efforts to disburse these monies in an equitable way to help mitigate the financial strain this pandemic will no doubt place on our local artists and musicians.”

“Our gig economy workers have played a huge part in shaping our city as we know it today, and I am extremely grateful to NOLABA for their responsiveness in addressing this urgent need. While we cannot entirely prevent the challenges, our people will face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, New Orleans can and will overcome this crisis, like so many others in our past. In the meantime, I remain committed to working with key partners like NOLABA to mitigate the negative impacts for our local business community and to ensure New Orleans’ economic outlook moving forward,” said District “D” Councilmember Jared Brossett.

“As the official economic development agency for the City, I am proud to see NOLABA step up to the plate to help the thousands of local workers being affected by the COVID19 event,” said District “E” Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen. “Our gig economy workers are the most vulnerable to the economic impact that this pandemic is having on the City of New Orleans, and our office will work with NOLABA to ensure that all of these workers are protected through a multi-agency effort.”

“During this challenging time for our city and our culture bearers who are deeply impacted by the loss of revenue amid the COVID-19 crisis, we sincerely thank NOLABA for stepping up and providing much-needed relief to the residents of New Orleans,” said Emily Madero, President and CEO of French Quarter Festivals, Inc. “The decision to postpone French Quarter Festival was a heavy one, particularly because of the impact we knew it would have on the artists, musicians, and hospitality workers that count on our cultural calendar for income. Through this grant, these critical members of our community will receive resources to help sustain them during this crisis. We implore other companies and organizations to contribute to this relief fund and support our gig economy workers who are on the front lines in providing both locals and visitors alike an authentic New Orleans experience.”

For additional information regarding the gig economy workers’ relief fund, or to apply, please visit www.nolaba.org/relief-fund/.

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Judge rejects Prop. 22 backers’ attempt to change gig-work ballot language

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A Sacramento Superior Court judge on Tuesday rebuffed backers of Proposition 22, a referendum aiming to keep some gig workers as independent contractors, in their lawsuit claiming California Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote a slanted description of their measure.

The attorney general writes the title, summary and label of an initiative that appear on the California ballot and ballot pamphlet and are vital to communicating to voters.

The Yes on 22 campaign charged that Becerra was biased and wrote language painting the measure in a negative light because he is suing Uber and Lyft, two of the major backers of Prop. 22, over their driver classification. Becerra’s lawsuit says that Uber and Lyft drivers should be employees under AB5, California’s new gig-work law — which is exactly what Prop. 22 seeks to avoid.

Besides Uber and Lyft, the other backers of Prop. 22 are DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart. The five companies have put up $110 million so far in their quest to convince voters that drivers and couriers should not be employees, which the companies say would destroy the flexibility those workers rely on. It would also cost the companies hundreds of millions of dollars, and potentially increase the prices consumers pay for rides and deliveries.

Becerra’s language accurately informs voters about the initiative, wrote Judge Laurie Earl in a tentative decision that will become final unless Yes on 22 requests a hearing.

The campaign has until Wednesday afternoon to make that request. The hearing would occur Thursday morning with each side limited to 30 minutes of oral arguments. Yes on 22 did not immediately say whether it will request the hearing.

The title written by Becerra that Yes on 22 objects to reads: “Exempts app-based transportation and delivery companies from providing employee benefits to certain drivers.”

The Yes on 22 campaign charged that “exempt” was a prejudicial term.

But the judge disagreed. “Read as a whole, this is not false, misleading, or inaccurate, and the use of the word ‘exempt’ in the ballot title does not make it so,” Earl wrote. In fact, she wrote, the ballot measure would exempt the companies from complying with various state laws applicable to employees.

Earl rejected Yes on 22’s claim that Becerra’s case against Uber and Lyft meant he was not impartial.

“This lawsuit is irrelevant,” the judge wrote, pointing to precedents that elected state officers are entitled to take public positions on matters of public importance.

The Yes on 22 provided a written statement responding to the ruling from Doug Mead, a freelance writer and Uber Eats and Postmates driver from Palm Springs. The campaign said he was among thousands of drivers who support remaining independent workers.

“The Attorney General is playing politics with the jobs of nearly one million Californians and threatening the services so many families rely on,” Mead’s statement read. “His biased and prejudicial description of Prop. 22 only benefits his special-interest supporters while doing a disservice to California voters.”

The No on 22 campaign, which is backed by organized labor, applauded the tentative ruling.

“The judge’s thoughtful deliberation on this ruling ensures that every Californian will know the unbiased truth when they fill out their ballots in November: Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash are trying to buy themselves a special exemption to roll back drivers’ rights,” said Mike Roth, spokesman for the No on Prop. 22 campaign.

Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: csaid@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @csaid



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IWGB wins workers status and rights for gig economy couriers at CitySprint

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CITYSPRINT couriers’ status as workers with rights was confirmed once and for all today after the company was dragged back to an employment tribunal for the third time.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) claimed victory in its battle to gain basic employment rights for five gig-economy workers at the company. 

CitySprint had changed workers’ contracts rather than comply with a previous ruling that they are entitled to holiday pay and the legal minimum wage. 

The company could now be forced to give them thousands of pounds in lieu of the holidays they were denied once its financial liability is established at a final hearing in October.

Claimant Phil Weber said: “This victory over CitySprint shows what strength there is in being part of an active front-line union like the IWGB. I hope it gives others courage. 

“So many ‘gig economy’ courier companies wrongly classify their workforce as self-employed independent contractors. 

“We all know they’re playing the system to deny basic rights like holiday pay and pension contributions, but most workers are afraid to stand up for themselves because, as it is, there’s not enough work to go around and so little job security. We’re left fighting for scraps. 

“But when we are united and fight together, things can turn out very differently.”

The IWGB said it was appalled that it had had to take the company to an employment tribunal three times because the company “was so determined” to deny workers basic protections. 

But yesterday’s victory shows that even when terms of contracts are manipulated, union organising can still win the fight for workers’ rights, the IWGB added. 

General secretary Dr Jason Moyer Lee said: “CitySprint and other ‘gig economy’ companies are making a mockery of the British legal system.  

“If the law were enforced and sanctions were real, CitySprint wouldn’t have dreamed of simply acting like it hadn’t already lost a tribunal claim over its couriers’ workers’ rights. 

“In the absence of the state enforcing the law, the IWGB will continue to hold these cowboy companies to account.”

A separate £43,668.86 holiday pay claim is being made against Royal Mail-owned eCourier on behalf of three couriers transferred from CitySprint.

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Gig-Workers Across CA Protest in Advance of Judge’s Ruling

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Gig-Workers Across California Protest on Thursday 8/6 in Advance of Judge’s Ruling

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Gig-Workers Demand That Uber And Lyft Obey AB 5

This Thursday, August 6, gig-workers across the state of California will be participating in actions demanding that Uber and Lyft obey AB 5 and immediately reclassify their workers as employees. Workers will also be demanding that the companies drop their Prop 22 Ballot Initiative (which the company’s have committed to spend $110m on) which would roll back gig-workers’ rights. This statewide day of action comes in advance of a judge’s ruling on the preliminary injunction motion filed by the California Attorney General in the state’s lawsuit against Uber and Lyft, which will come down at 1:30 PM on Thursday.

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In Oakland, drivers from Gig Workers Rising, Rideshare Drivers United & We Drive Progress will be holding a rally titled “Workers Can’t Wait” to demand the employee status they are legally owed under AB 5. Workers will gather at the East Oakland Lyft Hub and, starting at 11:30 AM, various drivers will speak about the grave mistreatment by the companies and demanding that voters vote no on Prop 22.

In Los Angeles, Mobile Workers Alliance and Rideshare Drivers United will host a joint press conference at a Lyft hub. The action is scheduled to begin at 10:30 AM.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and a coalition of city attorneys filed an injunction in June to require Uber and Lyft to immediately begin obeying AB 5, which took effect in January. AB 5 requires the companies to reclassify their drivers as employees. Uber and Lyft argue that they shouldn’t be required to follow the law until after voters vote on Prop 22 in November. Becerra argues the harm currently facing drivers is so great that it would be neglectful to wait until the end of the current litigation. The law is clearly on the workers’ side.



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