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New York Uber drivers press federal court to take up gig worker battle

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Liss-Riordan has been dubbed Uber’s archnemesis for overseeing a series of challenges to the company’s labor policies. Most notably she represented drivers in California and Massachusetts in a case settled in 2019, where Uber agreed to pay $20 million to drivers who said they were misclassified, but the company did not change its policies.

 

In the New York class-action complaint, filed Nov. 3, Liss-Riordan said the workers should be considered employees under existing state law.

 

“We are seeking injunctive relief that they properly classify their drivers, as well as restitution for past damages,” Liss-Riordan said by phone.

 

Uber filed a month later for a stay in the legal challenge, asking the judge to rule that the dispute belonged in private arbirtation.

 

The lawsuit was prompted by a New York state Court of Appeals ruling in March, Liss-Riordan said, that declared Postmates delivery workers were employees and entitled to unemployment benefits. A state Supreme Court justice ruled in a separate case in July that the state Department of Labor had wrongly denied standard unemployment insurance to Uber and Lyft drivers

 

The complaint was filed the same day that California voters approved Proposition 22, allowing Uber and Lyft to continue to classify workers as independent contractors rather than as employees.

 

Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart spent $200 million lobbying in favor of Prop 22, which negates a state law that classified most gig workers as employees. While the companies have long argued that independent contractor status allows its employees flexibilities, labor groups say it unfairly blocks workers from basic protections and health care.

 

Drivers have since filed suit in California to block the change, but Uber has pledged to “loudly advocate” for laws similar to Prop 22 elsewhere. The law provides some benefits, including health care, while it still maintains workers are independent.

 

This session of the New York Legislature is expected to review how to classify gig workers, such as those for app-based companies Uber, Lyft and Doordash. 

 

State Sen. Diane Savino, a Democrat from Staten Island, told Crain’s after the Prop 22 vote that lawmakers in Albany have been meeting with gig companies and labor groups to frame a new bill that provides protections for app-based workers. 

 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the gig economy a “fraud” in his 2020 State of the State address and said its workers should not be considered independent contractors. Efforts to pass legislation changed the industry stalled during the spring as the pandemic took hold of the state. Cuomo did not broach the issue in two State of the State speeches this week.

 

“There are a lot of eyes across the country watching what will happen in other states,” Liss-Riordan said. “Uber and other gig economy workers feel emboldened by what they pulled off in California.”

 

Uber has until Jan. 25 to respond to the drivers’ filing and further its case to shift the dispute to arbitration. The company declined to comment on the case Tuesday.

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Gig Harbor holds procession for first female firefighter, paramedic after unexpected death – KOMO News

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California’s Proposed Worker Co-Op Model for the Gig Economy | King & Spalding

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Series 2, 10 in 10: Issue 2

In response to the rise in app-based gig economy work and the passage of California’s Proposition 22, the California General Assembly is considering the Cooperative Economy Act, which aims to introduce a worker cooperative model into the gig economy. This model would permit workers to group together in jointly-owned organizations, or worker cooperatives, that provide staffing services to gig companies. Workers for the worker cooperatives would be designated as W-2 employees of the cooperative.

Under the proposed bill, the California Labor Commissioner would be required to create and help maintain a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation operating under the name of “Federation of California Worker Cooperatives” (Federation). After the Governor of California appoints the Federation’s initial board of directors, the current intent is for the State to have no further involvement in the governance of the Federation.

Membership in the Federation would be restricted to worker cooperatives that comply with the following:

  • Uniform hiring and ownership eligibility criteria;
  • At least 51% of the workers (natural persons contributing to a worker cooperative) are worker-owners (a worker that holds an ownership interest in a worker cooperative);
  • A majority of the voting ownership interest is held by worker-owners;
  • A majority of voting power is held by worker-owners; and
  • The majority of earnings is distributed based on the quantity or value of work performed rather than ownership interest.

The Federation would be required to:

  • Set labor policies for its members, including for hiring, firing, promotion, discipline, compensation, and assignment of work; and
  • Provide all management to its members.

Under federal law, the Federation would be deemed the employer of the management professionals (an employee of the Federation that provides management services to members of the Federation) and each cooperative’s workers and worker-owners. Under state law, workers and worker-owners would be employees of the Federation and the applicable cooperative. A cooperative would be prohibited from directly employing its own management professionals.

If passed, AB 1319 could fundamentally alter the relationship between workers and gig companies. Although the text of the proposed bill is currently silent as to the precise interaction, the Federation would essentially act as the broker or staffing firm between gig companies and workers. It is currently unclear whether the bill will move out of committee this year, but we will continue to monitor and advise on any developments. Ultimately, companies relying on a contingent workforce should keep a close eye on AB 1319 as its passage could have immediate and lasting effects on business models outside of the gig economy.

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Bandleader looks forward to performing Westborough hometown gig

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By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer

The Midtown Horns’ founder and bassist Greg Kojoyian performs July 15 at the Wood Park Music Shell in Hudson.
The Midtown Horns’ founder and bassist Greg Kojoyian performs July 15 at the Wood Park Music Shell in Hudson.
(Photo/Ed Karvoski Jr.)

WESTBOROUGH – Greg Kojoyian began honing his musical skills while in grades four through 12 in Westborough public schools. Several decades later, he’s now the founder, bassist and bandleader of The Midtown Horns.

In recent years, Kojoyian’s band has endured multiple concert cancellations due to inclement weather, the EEE threat and pandemic restrictions. Nevertheless, he is hopeful that The Midtown Horns’ show will go on as scheduled on Tuesday, Aug. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Westborough’s Bay State Commons.

“Playing in my hometown is special for me,” he noted. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

 

Westborough’s instrumental years 

Kojoyian learned to play trumpet as a fourth-grader inspired by the late Larry Forand. A professional trumpeter, Forand also worked full-time as the music director for Westborough’s entire school district.

“He was a great guy with an infectious ability to get everybody excited to do music,” Kojoyian said of his mentor.

In high school, Kojoyian also learned to play bass guitar. Then, his inspiration came from pop culture.

“You saw The Beatles running down the street with girls chasing them – but the girls weren’t chasing trumpet players,” he recalled. “I started getting into rock bands.”

Among his teen-era endeavors was a rock band called Pulse, which included horn players. They covered hit songs of bands such as Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Pulse’s performance venues ranged from dances at the Westborough Town Hall to high school graduation parties.

Continuing with a horn-based band

Kojoyian describes The Midtown Horns as the “direct descendant” of Pulse. 

“Probably because I was originally a trumpet player, I’ve always liked the big sound of bands with horns,” he explained. “Pulse spurred my lifelong passion for horn-based bands.”

The Midtown Horns typically includes 14 to 16 musicians. Their repertoire features contemporary, Motown, funk, rhythm and blues, soul and Latin genres.

They debuted at a Southborough summer concert in 2017.

Also in 2017, the band performed at Bay Stay Commons following the grand parade to celebrate Westborough’s 300th anniversary. Performing the concert was a chance for Kojoyian to represent his family’s town pride. 

“I only wish my dad could have seen us play at the celebration,” he said. “My dad loved Westborough.”

His late father, Sarkis Kojoyian, had served on the Westborough Planning Board as well as other town boards and committees.

Gigging year-round

In addition to outdoor summer concerts, The Midtown Horns entertain year-round at various venues.

“The summertime concerts are essentially our showcase,” Kojoyian noted. “We perform at weddings, benefits, corporate events and hotels. Very few nightclubs can fit us on their stage.”

Despite several unavoidable summer 2019 cancellations, Kojoyian considered it “a banner year” for the band. 

As a favorite 2019 gig, he cites their concert at Gloucester’s annual Labor Day weekend celebration. The Midtown Horns performed amid the Schooner Festival’s Boat Parade of Lights and fireworks over Gloucester Harbor. 

“It’s a really great event,” Kojoyian said of Gloucester’s holiday festivities. “We’re doing it again this year – thankfully!” 

Their busy 2019 schedule culminated with a show in December at the Encore Casino in Everett. Pandemic restrictions canceled the band’s 2020 gigs.

Entertaining audiences again

The Midtown Horns’ return to the stage took place at Wood Park in Hudson. After getting rained out July 7 and 12, they entertained an appreciative audience under clear skies on July 15.

“It felt great,” Kojoyian said of their first live show in 18 months. “It’s almost like a dream that a whole year and a half went by.”

Another dream job for Kojoyian is The Midtown Horns’ upcoming concert in Westborough – his hometown.

“My musical roots are in Westborough,” he added.

Learn more about The Midtown Horns at themidtownhorns.com and Facebook

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Summer Concert Series welcomes ‘Southbound Train’ to Marlborough (communityadvocate.com)

 

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