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Gig companies’ push for state-level worker laws faces divided labor movement

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Uber and other gig economy companies are trying a new approach to ending their battles with unions, and getting ahead of possible federal regulation that could upend their business based on classifying workers as independent contractors.

In New York, for example, gig economy companies are working with several unions including the Machinists and Transport Workers Union to strike a compromise that would allow drivers and food delivery workers to organize in a union and negotiate minimum pay and other benefits without being reclassified as employees.

With the support of the unions, the gig economy companies are pushing state lawmakers in Albany to pass a bill that would allow workers to negotiate wages and caps on company commission fees, and provide unemployment insurance in some circumstances.

Among the most vocal opponents of a proposed bill to achieve that goal is the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) northeastern Local 32BJ, which says the compromise would enshrine gig workers’ misclassified status and create a company-sanctioned union that would only further erode workers’ rights by setting no floor for the negotiations.

“This legislation moves workers backwards,” Kyle Bragg, 32BJ’s president said. “There’s too much company manipulation.”

Amid the controversy, efforts to have the bill introduced before the end of the state’s legislative session this week failed.

New York is just one of several states where gig economy companies led by Uber (UBER.N), Doordash (DASH.N), Lyft (LYFT.O) and Instacart are courting unions and state officials in an effort to cement their workers’ status as independent contractors across the United States.

FAULT LINES

The push by the gig economy companies has exposed divisions within organized labor over whether to bargain with the companies, or insist on workers being reclassified as employees with full protection of U.S. labor standards – and a clear legal right to join unions.

The rifts at times also run within the same union. For example, while 32BJ rejects the New York bill, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry in the past said she would back workers’ demands in reaching a deal with companies. The SEIU declined to comment for this story.

Similarly, the New York chapter of the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation, backs the compromise proposal, while members of its Colorado chapter said they were opposed to bargaining agreements with the gig companies.

According to a Reuters review, the companies over the past few months set up lobbying groups in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Colorado and Washington to push for laws that declare app-based ride-hail and food delivery drivers independent contractors, while proposing to offer them some benefits. In some states the companies hope for buy-in from labor groups, company and union officials said.

The companies are trying to build on their success in California, where voters approved an industry-backed ballot measure that exempts ride-hail and food delivery workers from rules that require other types of contractors to be classified as employees, and provides them with limited benefits.

The companies say they pursue tailored policies for each state to combine flexibility for their mostly part-time workers with benefits and protections. They have yet to offer concrete proposals in most states.

Some executives hope state-based independent contractor laws can also forestall federal action by the labor-friendly Biden administration, which has vowed to end the misclassification of workers as independent contractors.

“The models that are developed at the state level can be given a framework at the federal level,” Lyft President John Zimmer said during an interview last month.

While any state law could be superseded by federal rules, Zimmer’s calculation assumes that the U.S. Labor Department is less likely to act once facts on the ground are established.

The companies’ race for state backing runs counter to the labor movement’s single biggest legislative priority, the passage of a far-reaching labor reform bill known as the PRO Act in Congress. The bill would make worker organizing easier and among other things reclassify most independent contractors as employees for the purpose of collective bargaining, though not for wage laws and benefits.

The bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-led U.S. Senate, but even if it did, several years of regulatory and court wrangling would ensue, a time during which gig workers’ rights would remain unchanged, said Wilma Liebman, former chair of the National Labor Relations Board.

SKEPTICS ON BOTH SIDES

Some union figures have therefore taken a more pragmatic approach. Andy Stern, former president of the SEIU and at the time one of the most politically influential labor leaders, for the past six years has been trying to strike deals between the gig companies and unions, including failed attempts in California to ward off the ballot measure.

The California referendum, a costly victory for the gig companies, was also a cautionary tale for unions, as well as for drivers, who are now left without any avenues to organize or object to the terms stipulated by the companies.

Stern said internal union surveys in New York had repeatedly shown that a majority of drivers did not want to be employees and said debates focused solely on reclassification were based on unrealistic and purist sentiments.

Stern instead advocates for drivers’ rights to organize in unions and negotiate their own contracts.

“Give a worker a union and collective bargaining and they’ll decide themselves what kind of status, wages and benefits they want. People who believe litigation and legislation are the solution have failed these workers,” Stern said.

Stern and others dubious of reclassification point to Seattle and New York City, where years of union efforts to organize drivers have led to the only driver minimum wage laws in the country.

Uber and Lyft have rocky histories with unions and workers who want to organize. The companies in 2015 enlisted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for a years-long court battle against a Seattle law spearheaded by the Teamsters union that would have allowed ride-hail drivers to bargain collectively.

Uber more recently appears to have opened up to such agreements, however. The company last month recognized Britain’s GMB union as the collective bargaining unit of its 70,000 British drivers. Lyft’s Zimmer said the company was having constructive conversations with labor leaders.

Many union officials remain skeptical about basing workers’ fate on the goodwill of companies.

“You never get everything you want out of collective bargaining…and it would be better to give drivers more options and protections under the law,” said Kjersten Forseth, political and legislative director for the Colorado AFL-CIO, which plans to make state-based gig worker policy solutions its focus over the next two years.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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It’s not just pipelines; everyday gig workers are getting phished too

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Not long ago, “getting Phished” meant waking up in a festival field wearing nothing but cargo shorts — 23 hours into a 3-day jam session, smelling like patchouli oil.

Now, the hackers are ruining it for us all.

Recently, high-profile cyberattacks of pipelines, meat factories, and ferry operations have cast new light on the existential risk of a digital society.

But it’s not just large organizations feeling the hack heat

A recent Protocol article details the rise of phishing attacks among DoorDash gig workers (AKA Dashers).

Here’s how these DoorDash attacks work:

  1. A DoorDash worker receives an order needing fulfillment
  2. The worker receives a call from someone pretending to be a DoorDash support representative, saying the order has been canceled
  3. The worker is unable to remove the order from their app (because it has not been legitimately canceled)
  4. The scammer offers to send the worker a link to clear their app
  5. The link prompts the worker to provide their username and password

The hackers then access and drain the Dasher’s account

Although Protocol was unable to confirm the number of scammed DoorDash workers, Reddit threads indicate a growing number of gig worker victims (Postmates couriers have been hit, too).

DoorDash suggests these are one-off problems. But gig workers are particularly vulnerable to phishing scams because of their relationship with their work. Often, they have no boss or co-workers to consult with and the money is just dropped into their account.

They simply follow the prompts of an app…

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Celtics assistant Jerome Allen reportedly interviews for Boston gig, expected to interview for Portland job

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Celtics

Allen’s been with the Celtics since 2015.

Jerome Allen seems to be drawing interest for multiple head coaching vacancies. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The Celtics might have some competition in finding their next head coach.

Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen has interviewed for the job to replace Brad Stevens and is expected to interview with the Trail Blazers for their head coaching spot, The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn reported Saturday.

Allen, who played professionally for 14 years in the NBA and overseas, joined the Celtics as an assistant coach in 2015. Allen has “been a positive influence, forging close relationships with the players” during his time in Boston, according to Washburn.

Prior to joining the Celtics, Allen was the head coach of the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s basketball team for six seasons. In 2020, Allen received a 15-year show-cause penalty from the NCAA due to accepting bribes to help a student get on the recruiting list in order to get accepted into Penn during his time as head coach.

Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga is expected to interview for the job while assistant coach Scott Morrison will interview for the job, HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto reported. Larranaga’s been a Celtics assistant since 2012 while Morrison’s been a Celtics assistant since 2017. Morrison was the head coach of the Maine Red Claws for three years prior to coaching the Celtics, winning the D-League Coach of the Year Award in 2015.

Not long after Stevens stepped down as Celtics head coach to become their president of basketball operations, it was reported that the Celtics would interview internal candidates before looking at external candidates for the job.

The Trail Blazers became the second team to have a head coach opening after they agreed to part ways with Terry Stotts on Friday. Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard already publically vouched for his team to hire either Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd or Clippers assistant coach Chauncey Billups to be the team’s next head coach. Both Kidd and Billups have been rumored candidates for the Celtics job.

In addition to internal candidates plus Kidd and Billups, Duke women’s basketball head coach (and ex-Celtics assistant coach) Kara Lawson, 76ers assistant coach Sam Cassell, and Nets assistant coach Ime Udoka are just a few of the names that have been rumored to replace Stevens.

The Magic entered the head coach search Saturday when they agreed to part ways with Steve Clifford. The now ex-Magic coach has prior ties with Kemba Walker. Clifford was Walker’s head coach for five seasons in Charlotte.



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Bay Area Reporter :: News Briefs: Kendell lands new gig

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Kate Kendell, the former longtime executive director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, is now the first chief of staff for the California Endowment.

Kendell began the new position June 1, after having served for nine years on the endowment’s board of directors, a news release stated.

“The endowment is excited to have Kate Kendell continue to serve our foundation, now as chief of staff,” stated Dr. Robert K. Ross, CEO and president of the endowment. “Kate’s career is steeped in racial justice, LGBTQ advocacy, and civil rights. She will be a strong leader for our work in the next decade.”

According to the release, Kendell’s hiring comes after recent retirements of executive team members and a major transition of staff. Kendell will assist and support the executive team, and will play a key role in the development and implementation for the endowment’s future work, helping to deepen the racial equity efforts of the organization. She will also support grant making from the CEO’s office, and ensure the prioritization of critical issues and required information for the CEO to help facilitate efficiency and provide timely decision-making.

Kendell stepped down from NCLR at the end of 2018. Most recently, she served as interim chief legal officer at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Kendell said she’s enthusiastic about the new job.

“After serving on the board of the California Endowment, I am especially excited to join the staff of an organization committed to health and social and racial justice,” she stated in an email. “For 25 years the endowment has empowered and partnered with youth and residents to create vibrant communities where all can thrive, including LGBTQ residents. I look forward to helping the passionate and talented team at the endowment deepen and grow that work for all Californians.”

The California Endowment has a budget of about $3.5 million, according to the audited financials on its website. It works to provide grants to develop social justice and health equity for all Californians. Learn more at https://www.calendow.org/

Glide announces Pride festivities
Glide Memorial Church and the Glide Pride Team have announced various activities to recognize LGBTQ Pride Month in June. There will be tributes, special offerings, and Pride-inspired Sunday celebrations.

Led by Marvin K. White, Glide’s minister of celebration, the church is dedicated to unconditional love, radically inclusive faith, and social justice.

“Glide Memorial Church has a long history of LGBTQ+ inclusion,” White stated in a news release. “Our congregation has been a spiritual home for the LGBTQ+ community from the beginning. … We celebrate Pride because we know that the LGBTQ+ stories that make up our beloved community will endure.”

There are drag and spirituality shows on Friday, June 11, featuring Afrika America; Monday, June 14, with Lotus Boy; and Monday, June 21, with Honey Mahogany. All start at 7 p.m.

“Black Trans Lives: Breaking the Silence” will be held Tuesday, June 22, at 6 p.m. There will be a virtual watch party for the classic drag ballroom film “Paris is Burning” Friday, June 25, at 6 p.m. On Sunday, June 27, at 2 p.m. there will be a virtual Pride party on Twitch with DJ David Harness.

For more information and to register for the events, go to https://www.glide.org/

LGBTQ first-time homebuyer seminar
The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance will hold a virtual national first-time homebuyer seminar for queer people Wednesday, June 16, from 4 to 5 p.m. Pacific Time. Organizers said they believed this is the first such program ever offered specifically for the LGBTQ+ community.

This is also the first public program offered by the alliance, a 501(c)6 nonprofit with more than 1,200 members that launched last October. According to a news release, it will feature a variety of important topics for potential homeowners, including discussions about down payments, mortgage types, pre-approval, and the lending process. The program will offer insight into selecting an agent, home, and neighborhood while offering perspectives on the offer, negotiations, and the different steps to closing. The alliance will also provide resources to help combat potential housing discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Today’s market conditions have heightened the challenges facing first-time homebuyers and we believe it is important to provide members of our community with the tools and resources they need to navigate the buying process,” stated Ryan Weyandt, CEO of the alliance. “Along with discrimination, and fear of it, we have found a lack of education focused on the LGBTQ+ community that would allow more to better prepare for the process.”

Weyandt pointed out that the LGBTQ+ homeownership rate is just 49.6%, according to the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ think tank at UCLA School of Law. This is far below the national mark of 65.6% cited by the U.S. Census Bureau.

One of the featured speakers will be Josh Pringle from Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Leaskou Partners in Palm Springs. Other speakers include Kassandra Alicea, the alliance’s San Antonio, Texas chapter president and an agent with Coldwell Banker’s D’Ann Harper Realtors, and Ron Waterson, a loan officer with PrimeLending in Dallas.

There is no cost to attend. To register, go to https://realestatealliance.org/event/first-time-home-buyers-course/

According to a new report from the National Association of Realtors that was released June 9, LGBTQ buyers purchased older and smaller homes more than non-LGBTQ buyers, and expect to live in their new homes five years less than non-LGBTQ buyers.

CA Hispanic chamber launches LGBTQ business initiatives
The California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce has announced its LGBTQ+ Business Initiative launch. The initiative will promote an inclusive ecosystem at the CHCC through regional collaboration, maximizing resources, and leadership development, according to a news release.

The CHCC has committed to building bridges between its regional Hispanic chambers, affiliates, and the regional LGBTQ+ chambers or business associations in launching the initiative.

“LGBTQ+ rights this decade has seen a range of positive changes. Companies have come a long way putting in place policies that promote and protect diversity,” stated Julian Canete, president and CEO of CHCC. “But there’s still more that can be done, in particular a formal collaboration between the CHCC and the LGBTQ+ business community.”

The CHCC will work on cultivating certified LGBTQ+ diverse suppliers, connecting them to opportunities. It will also assist its corporate partners in diversifying their supply chains, and advocate on behalf of LGBTQ+ and allied business communities.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.



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