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DoorDash Driver: Vons’ Shift To Gig Economy Is Driving Down Wages

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The DoorDash app is shown on a smartphone on Feb. 27, 2020, in New York.

Photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

Above: The DoorDash app is shown on a smartphone on Feb. 27, 2020, in New York.

Last month, Vons told dozens of grocery delivery drivers at San Diego supermarkets that the company would be laying them off. The company said it was transitioning to third-party services, meaning those who work in the gig economy through services like DoorDash or Instacart.

In a statement, Vons said the move to third-party delivery companies will help it, “create a more efficient operation.” But a longtime DoorDash driver told KPBS that the move has driven down profits for drivers who use the app.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

That driver, who asked to remain anonymous because he fears retaliation for speaking out, has been driving full-time for DoorDash in North County for the past two years. He said earns as much as $200 for a full day of work.

As a gig economy driver he’s given options on delivering food for different businesses and has enjoyed the freedom of the job.

“I do like the flexibility, you can go work whenever you want. If you need to take a day off because something comes up, you can do that without worrying. In other jobs, it becomes a big hassle,” the driver said.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler

Around a year ago, as Vons began ramping up its use of the DoorDash service, he noticed that the opportunities being offered by the only grocery chain using the service didn’t really stack up with the other jobs he was being offered.

The driver said that jobs from Vons had him traveling to areas far outside his own service area, for as little as $10.25. That amount is supposed to cover the time spent driving to the destination and the gas costs.

“On top of just the long distances, you also have to consider you go into the grocery store, you have to go get the order from them, sometimes it’s not ready, you’re waiting at the store for 15 to 20 minutes,” he said. “You finally get your car loaded up, take another 5, 10 minutes doing that. Drive, unload the groceries, which can take another 5, 10, 15 minutes.”

If he was sent outside of this service area, he would then have to spend time driving back there to be able to get another job.

The driver said he would reject these offers from Vons, because it didn’t make financial sense to him.

“Now when I see something come up from Vons, I don’t even give it a second look, I just decline it,” he said.

As Vons began preparing to switch to the sole use of third-party delivery drivers last fall, it began to ramp up its use of DoorDash. Because the driver KPBS spoke to was declining those jobs, he saw his acceptance rate plummet in the DoorDash application. That rate impacts what kind of jobs he’s offered. He said this incentivizes some Doordash drivers to take jobs that pay low rates, just so they can keep their acceptance rate up.

“Every month, if your ratings are at a certain percentage, then you get priority in deliveries, it says you get the bigger deliveries,” he said.

RELATED: San Diego Delivery Drivers Laid Off As Prop 22 Takes Effect

In an emailed statement, a DoorDash spokesperson told KPBS that, “DoorDash is committed to providing the best possible experience for Dashers, and we’re eager to hear their feedback on how we can best serve their needs. Nationally, Dashers earn on average over $22 per hour they’re on a job, including tips. Dashers always have the choice to decline orders if they choose, and always see their full pay, which includes 100% of their tips in their accounts after a delivery. We’re actively engaging with community groups across the country on ways to continue supporting workers, including our Dasher community.”

Other companies besides Vons are now outsourcing work to third parties after the passage of Prop 22 in November, which granted legality to gig economy companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash,

The driver doesn’t think the proposition is bad, per se. He’s now guaranteed a minimum wage for hours he’s actively delivering items. He just wishes that companies like Vons were willing to pay higher wages.

Vons would not comment on its agreement with DoorDash regarding rates of pay for drivers.

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UK Supreme Court’s Uber decision is a victory for all gig workers | Business and Economy News

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For the past few years, the “gig economy” business model – in which workers are classified as independent contractors and therefore not given basic employment rights – has been on trial across the world.

From Uruguay and the United States to Australia and France, couriers and drivers have been bringing legal challenges against food delivery and passenger transport companies, such as Uber, Lyft, and Deliveroo, arguing that as their “workers” or “employees” they should be entitled to employment protections such as minimum wage, paid holidays and the right to unionise.

The United Kingdom has been one of the main battlegrounds for such cases and things have not gone well for the companies: they have lost virtually every high-profile workers’ rights case that has been brought against them.

And last week, they lost again. In a landmark decision published on February 19, the UK Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers belong to the legal category of “limb (b) workers”, which entitles them to employment rights.

The court reasoned that “the transportation service performed by drivers and offered to passengers through the Uber app is very tightly defined and controlled by Uber… [It] is designed and organised in such a way as to provide a standardised service to passengers in which drivers are perceived as substantially interchangeable and from which Uber, rather than individual drivers, obtains the benefit of customer loyalty and goodwill.”

For anyone who has taken an Uber before, this assessment is no shocker. The decision is also not surprising as Uber had already lost three times in a row before the case reached the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, this decision still has dramatic implications for workers.

“Gig economy” companies often make the people who work for them sign highly sophisticated contracts that are designed to make it look like they are independent entrepreneurs rather than the companies’ employees. When the issue goes to court, the companies rely on these contracts to argue their case. These contracts are key to the functioning of the “gig economy” because they are the main mechanism through which the companies try to disguise the otherwise blindingly obvious fact that they are hiring workers and telling them how to do their jobs but refusing to give them basic employment rights and protections.

The Supreme Court addressed this issue in its latest decision against Uber head-on. In particular, it held that courts and tribunals should not treat these contracts as the starting point of their analysis, because “an employer is often in a position to dictate such contract terms” and “the individual performing the work has little or no ability to influence those terms”.

The effect of the Uber decision is that it will now be even harder for employers to use their contracts to misclassify their workers and deprive them of basic rights. This means that any attempt by Uber to squirm out of the decision by changing the contracts – as the company has already hinted at – will be all but hopeless in the courts.

With last week’s decision against Uber, the Supreme Court also underlined its commitment to ensuring that the laws passed by Parliament – in this case laws that aim to protect vulnerable workers from exploitative employers – are being fully implemented.

The UK Supreme Court has been bolstering the role of Parliament for a while now.

In 2017, the court held that despite the Brexit referendum vote, then-Prime Minister Theresa May could not take the UK out of the European Union without an act of Parliament. Later that year, the court struck down a regime of employment tribunal fees, noting that if people do not have unimpeded access to the courts to demand the enforcement of the laws passed by Parliament, “the democratic election of Members of Parliament may become a meaningless charade”.

And in 2019, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempted to shut down Parliament for several weeks, the Supreme Court ruled the decision unlawful. Indeed, it is a hypocritical peculiarity of British politics in recent years that despite a Brexit campaign fought by some – ostensibly – to protect the sovereign role of Parliament, it is the Supreme Court, rather than the Brexiteer government in power, that has become the institution’s staunchest defender.

With its latest decision against Uber, the Supreme Court sent the message to all UK workers that it would not allow gig economy companies to trample employment rights and protections that have been enshrined in law by their elected representatives.

The impact of the decision is likely to be felt beyond Britain’s shores as well.

For example, some of the worker’s rights the Supreme Court considered in last week’s decision come from European Union (EU) law. In EU law, various employment rights, such as paid holidays, equal pay for men and women, and protection from discrimination, apply to “workers”, a legal category with the same definition in the bloc’s 27 member states. So, the fact that Uber drivers were held to be “workers” in the UK would likely be persuasive for courts across the EU considering whether the company’s drivers are entitled to the same rights there.

Beyond Europe, from India to the US, the decision has been hailed as a symbolic precedent for regulators and courts.

Although employment laws differ between countries, Uber’s defence in workers’ rights cases is usually the same: it claims to be a technology, rather than transportation, company, acting as an intermediary between drivers and passengers. The fact that a panel of six justices of the UK’s highest court has unanimously rejected this absurd assertion is likely to be persuasive for courts around the world grappling with the same issue.

In the US, there are multiple definitions of “employee” across state and federal laws. However, the courts often consider the control a company exerts over a worker as a key factor when deciding whether that worker is entitled to employment rights or not. So, the UK Supreme Court’s extensive discussion of how Uber controls its drivers will likely be helpful to drivers arguing their cases across the pond.

In Australia, Uber has successfully defended itself against several legal challenges concerning workers’ rights (although it recently settled the most high profile of these after being scolded by a judge in federal court). However, Sheryn Omeri, one of the lawyers representing Uber drivers in the UK, who also practices law in Australia, suggests the UK Supreme Court’s decision will be influential on future Australian cases. UK court decisions are “the obvious choice for Australia to look to”, she told me.

It is important to note that when it comes to regulating the “gig economy”, the judiciary, workers and trade unions cannot act alone. Governments must force companies to obey the law by way of prosecutions and fines. Indeed, the UK government has a particularly abysmal record on this, making the role of trade unions all the more important. But with last week’s decision, the exploitative “gig economy” business model has been dealt a decisive blow, and for that, couriers, drivers, and unions worldwide should celebrate.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



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As Congress scrutinizes gig worker rules, small-business owners need to know the basics – The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Uber’s UK ruling could have implications for gig economy startups

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Former Uber drivers Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar first brought their case against Uber in 2016
(Carl Court/Getty Images)

The UK’s Supreme Court has rejected Uber‘s appeal against an earlier ruling that said its drivers must be classified as workers, a result that may have a significant impact on other gig economy companies.

The decision—which cannot be appealed—means thousands of UK Uber drivers cannot qualify as being self-employed, entitling them to both minimum wage and holiday pay. The ridehailing company could now face paying substantial compensation to its drivers.

The ruling, which criticized Uber for sidestepping UK labor laws to withhold benefits, could influence other battles between gig workers and the companies that hire them. Earlier this month, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain appealed against a court decision preventing riders for food delivery startup Deliveroo from engaging in collective bargaining due to their self-employed status. Deliveroo, which is backed by investors including Durable Capital Partners and Amazon, is looking to go public this year.

“Employees should benefit from improved rights; however, employers are likely to face increased costs of labor and disruption to their business models, which have proven to achieve rapid scale with gig workers,” said PitchBook analyst Nalin Patel. “The ruling may also now set a precedent in the UK and force other gig economy startups that utilize the self-employed contractor model to rethink how they operate in the region moving forward.”

Former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam originally won their tribunal against Uber in 2016. Uber appealed the decision, but it was upheld in 2017, and again in 2018 by the High Court.

“This ruling will fundamentally re-order the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery,” said Farrar, who is also a general secretary with the App Drivers and Couriers Union. “Uber drivers are cruelly sold a false dream of endless flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom.”

In a statement, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood,  said the court decision was focused on a “small number of drivers” who used the app in 2016. Since then, he said the company had made changes to its business,  providing free insurance in case of sickness or injury. He added: “We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”

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