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Gig Workers Struggle To Get Answers About Back Benefits As Some Federal Pandemic Programs End – CBS Chicago

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Tens of thousands of people in Illinois are still fighting for unemployment money they are owed from four federal pandemic programs that are now over.

On the flip side of that coin, could the end of those programs be a glimmer of hope for places desperate to hire?

READ MORE: Woman Who Survived Lakeview Hit-And-Run That Killed Best Friend Sophie Allen Wonders Why There Has Been No Arrest

CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas is Working for Chicago and spoke with people struggling for answers about back benefits.

One key program that expired over the weekend was federal unemployment benefits for gig workers, such as ride share drivers and musicians. Their payments are ending, but their questions are not.

And getting answers is not easy, especially with most Illinois Department of Employment Security offices still closed, Labor Day or not.

A tricky drum beat is no challenge for Ted Sirota, but there’s another kind of rhythm he cant quite master.

“Dealing with the state and the unemployment office is the most complicated thing I’ve ever had to deal with,” he said.

The pandemic came crashing down on his gigs as a jazz drummer and audio technician. Then another crash early this year. The state’s unemployment office told him he’d stop getting his federal unemployment payments because he hadn’t submitted all his paperwork.

“But I had done that,” he said.

He’s been fighting with IDES ever since over the $15,000 in benefits he would have gotten since then.

“Everything costs money to make money,” he said. “And when you get down below a certain threshold, it’s just like the bottom drops out and then the rent starts piling up.”

Now the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is over, and Sirota isn’t sure how the state will handle his appeal. It’s a question IDES is hearing often. Its website says it will still make decisions on pending appeals, and if you’re approved, you’ll be paid retroactively.

“I just want what I am owed,” said Lisa Braun, who is also a gig worker.

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She said she struggled to navigate the appeals process at all, so her appeal was never submitted.

“Another thing I don’t understand is why these places are not open and accessible for people to go in and talk to people,” she said.

It’s the same song we’ve heard from so many others trying to get answers from IDES during the pandemic.

Sirota said he knows the state determined he’s eligible for PUA payments, so he just doesn’t know what the holdup is.

“And that’s the main frustration. If I could just get a straight answer,” he said.

Sirota would like to go to his closest IDES office and get answers from someone, face to face but it is not one of the offices IDES has reopened.

We asked IDES what the holdup is for Sirota and Braun but have not heard back.

Some people were overpaid by the state and will still have access to their accounts to continue paying the state back. There are also people who have applied for waivers of overpayments, and the state says it is still processing some of those, too.

IDES has information on its website for frequently asked questions regarding the ending programs.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

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We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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Gig workers in Karnataka too can expect weekly offs, other benefits- The New Indian Express

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Express News Service

BENGALURU: Gig workers with e-commerce platforms can hope for better days with various benefits. With the Union Government proposing to revise the definition of employment to include new types of workforce, the Labour Department in the state is planning to conduct a survey of workers in the unorganised sector, including drivers enlisted with mobile app-based cab platforms, delivery agents and food delivery agents, to ensure that they get benefits like weekly offs and minimum wages.

The Centre is expected to include new forms of workforce, including gig and platform workers, and anganwadi workers, in a new set of reforms under the proposed National Employment Policy that seeks to ensure a fair deal to the workers. Under this policy, these workers will be eligible for minimum wages, weekly offs and other leaves and also other worker-related benefits like Provident Fund and ESI facility. Presently, gig workers, including food delivery agents and mobile-app based drivers, are not employees of the company — they are paid per delivery or trip and they have to bear the cost of fuel.

Speaking to The New Indian Express, State Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbar said, “Though the Centre is yet to finalise the policy, Karnataka will go ahead and conduct a district-wise survey of mobile-based taxi/autorickshaw drivers, delivery agents and also food delivery agents. We can provide facilities to beneficiaries only if we have proper data on them.”

Hebbar said he will discuss the matter with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and other officials concerned and a final decision will be taken after the October 30 bypolls. Meanwhile, over 7 lakh people from Karnataka have registered on the e-SHRAM portal for unorganised workers that was launched last month. Hebbar informed the Assembly in the recent session that there are over 1.6 crore unorganised workers in Karnataka. 

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Why Do Gig Workers Want You To Delete Instacart?

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Robin Pape is a gig worker and Founding Member of the Gig Workers Collective. Errol Schweizer led the Grocery team at Whole Foods Market for 9 years, including during 2015 when the retailer was an early adapter of Instacart.

Errol Schweizer: What’s it like to be a gig worker?

Robin Pape: There’s a lot of uncertainty involved with being a gig worker. You never really know what you’re gonna make, how much you’re going to work. You generally don’t have health care. And there’s no sick pay, no paid time off. There’s just a lot of uncertainty. 

Errol: How is it different than being a regular employee?

Robin: Well, as a gig worker, we’re classified as independent contractors. And we at the Gig Workers Collective believe that that’s an intentional misclassification and that it’s done to specifically skirt the labor laws. So you know, if we worked for the company as a direct employee, we would have access to health insurance and sick pay and paid time off, and they would be paying into our taxes and towards social security. We would be using their vehicles instead of our own. So that there’s a lot of differences in how we’re treated. 

Errol: What’s the issue with the business model? 

Robin: So usually, the pay with these good companies starts out pretty well. And then as time goes on, it’s unsustainable. And it drops and there’s changes to how the pay models work. Initially, they’ll usually start with a very clear and concrete pay model, and then switch to something that’s more of a black-box, an algorithm where we can’t really compute what exactly it is that we’re being paid for, what’s mileage, just the simple base pay for an order. The company makes money by charging extra money to the customers. And in addition to that, they’ll pay service delivery fees to the company.

So getting into these gigs, it can feel initially like you’re making good money, because you haven’t been educated about all of the costs and the expenses involved. But at the end of the day, you’re lucky to break even.

Errol: How have you seen gig work change during COVID-19? What’s it been like?

Robin: There’s been a huge increase in the number of people who are using delivery services. I think that’s tapering off a bit now that people are feeling more comfortable and more people are vaccinated and getting back into the stores themselves. So while there was this huge boom in customer base, Instacart, in particular, cut our base pay, And they hired twice as many shoppers, and they sent us inadequate PPE, the shelves were empty, customers were upset about this, it was taken out on shoppers, it was out of our control. People were frustrated. It went from shopping usually one, maybe two orders at a time to most often shopping three orders at a time, and having to communicate with three different people, while you’re in the middle of a pandemic, and everything is taking so much longer as you’re going back and forth, back and forth, fulfilling requests for three people who aren’t going to get everything that they want. And you know, there were limits. You could only have two bags of frozen vegetables. And, one case of water and people weren’t happy about it.

But people were proud of what they were doing. They weren’t ashamed to say that they worked for Instacart or one of the other gigs, there was some pride. And all of these people were going somewhere that no one else wanted to go, that people were afraid to go. 

But overall, in general, we’ve seen pay cuts from 30 to 50%. And a lot of it is out of our control, a lot of it doesn’t have to be this way. And the things that we’re asking for right now are things that we’ve had in the past that were taken from us so that the company could be more profitable. 

Right now they want to paint this glowing picture, and they either want to sell the company or announce an IPO. And we’re hoping that it’s a lot harder to do that when investors understand just how poorly this company cares for its employees, for its independent contractors. 

Errol: What are the five demands that the Gig Workers Collective has around reforming Instacart and other similar apps?

Robin: All of our demands are things that we we’ve either had, or have been told we have, but it hasn’t really been made clear.

So the first demand that we have is that they return to paying by the order instead of by the batch. So people think of as a batch as one order, but it can actually be one order, or two or three full service orders where you shop and deliver. And in some areas, including mine, it can be as many as five delivery orders. Right now, the minimum pay for a delivery order is $5.00. But if they put five of them together in one batch, there’s still only guaranteeing $5.00. And that’s not a base pay. That’s a minimum pay. So that can include the mileage, that can include heavy order pay.

So that that’s the first one is that they pay us by the order. That’s the easiest way to make sure that we’re paid fairly and at least a minimum wage. The second demand is that they reintroduce item commission; this was removed in late 2018. We used to receive a base pay for an order plus item commission. So you could pretty easily figure out what you’re going to get paid for an order by looking at the number of items in it. In 2018, they change that to a black-box algorithm. At one point they took away the ability for customers to tip. We had to fight to get that back, you know, they stole our tips. They used our tips to subsidize pay, they had to apologize publicly and pay us back tips. So there have been all sorts of issues with tips and pay and commission. So in addition to having batches only contain one order, or if more than one order, have them be fairly priced. we would like them to reintroduce item commission. 

We’d also like them to stop punishing shoppers for issues that are out of their control. So this could look like a lot of different things during COVID-19. We were having, you know a lot of markdowns because things weren’t available in the store, or because people wanted three of something and the limit was one. So there were issues there with things not being delivered on time, and shoppers would be penalized for that. And then, you know, the thing that’s most out of our control is that not all customers are honest. We like to think that most of them are. So all these things together can really have an impact on ratings. Instacart keeps track of the last hundred orders that you shop. So the way that it is right now if you have a perfect five star rating, you get to see the best orders that they’re offering. When I had a 4.98 I was seeing the best offers. I shopped a few orders and didn’t get any ratings. So some of my five stars fell off which gave weight to the four star I have. And that brought me down to a 4.97 and I didn’t see any good orders. Now it could take weeks for somebody to get their ratings back up where it needs to be and it’s really unfair to the independent contractors. 

The fourth demand is that we’re looking for a clear occupational death benefit. The contract says that they may pay death benefits. Just like they said that they may pay for COVID. And it’s still not really clear what they mean by that they may pay occupational death benefits. We’d like them to be guaranteed, We’d like them to be accessible. We’d like to know how they’re accessible, and we’d like them to be comparable to properly classified employees. 

And then the final demand is that they return the default tip to 10%. Currently, it’s 5%. So if a customer tips 10%, or 20%, the next time they go into order, the default tip should be set to that higher percent. And Instacart removed it at one point and replaced it with a service fee that didn’t go to the shoppers but went to Instacart. We had to fight to get them to reinstate it. But when they did, they reinstated it at 5% instead of 10%. The other 5% remains a service fee for Instacart. In some areas that 5% is closer to 8%. And then in other markets for delivery orders that service fee is as much as 15%. And that’s on top of the item markups. You know, when the default tip is set to 5%, people tend to think that that’s the fair amount, the customary amount to tip for this kind of a service. 

All jobs deserve a living wage. If you can’t afford to pay the people who make it happen for you a living wage, then you don’t deserve to be in business.

Right now we’re getting the short end of the stick while Instacart makes money and it’s money that should be in our pockets right now. We’ll just keep getting louder and louder because we’ve got nothing to lose.

Errol: So how can folks support you? 

Robin: So we successfully registered to be a nonprofit. We have a website, it’s Gig Workers Collective.org. You can donate there, you can provide your information to get connected with us and be more aware of what we’re doing and how we’re organizing. You know, we’ve done a boycott, and we’ve done a protest, and we’ve done a walk off, we’ve asked customers to delete the app. We’re not just going to go away until things get better. So delete Instacart, do the curbside pickup, and tip when you can.

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Google Fiber’s 2-Gig footprint expands

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Google Fiber’s speediest offering, a service that delivers 2Gbit/s downstream and 1Gbit/s in the upstream, has reached San Antonio, where the ISP duels with AT&T, Charter Communications and Grande Communications.

Google Fiber announced plans to build networks and offer gigabit services in San Antonio back in August 2015.  
(Image source: Google Fiber)

Google Fiber announced plans to build networks and offer gigabit services in San Antonio back in August 2015.

(Image source: Google Fiber)





Google Fiber said “many parts” of the company’s service area in San Antonio now have access to the uncapped 2-Gig service, as execs announced in this blog post. Google Fiber, they added, is working on technical requirements to make the speedy offering available in some parts of San Antonio that were part of the early fiber network build there.


2022 a big build year in San Antonio



Google Fiber said it expects 2022 to be its biggest build year yet since it started constructing its network in San Antonio. Google Fiber announced San Antonio as a deployment city in August 2015.


Currently, residents in parts of the west, east, north and northwest sides of San Antonio can sign up for Google Fiber service, with construction crews now at work filling in areas on the northeast, northwest and inner westside of the city.


“Once we’ve completed these portions, we’ll continue building out across the city including communities on the south and west sides,” the company added. “This year, working closely with our local government partners, we’ve picked up the pace of our construction efforts significantly.”


The San Antonio launch expands the list of Google Fiber cities that offer the 2-Gig service for $100 per month, joining Atlanta; Austin; Charlotte and The Triangle, North Carolina; Huntsville, Alabama; Kansas City (Missouri and Kansas); Nashville, Tennessee; Orange County, California; Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah.


Google Fiber’s 2-Gig service will also be offered in West Des Moines, Iowa, where the company is grappling with Mediacom Communications. The company announced last month that it had begun to place fiber in the city’s conduit network.


Google Fiber limits speeds to 1-Gig up and down in its Webpass markets, delivering fixed wireless service to parts of Chicago; Denver; Miami; Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco, California; and Seattle.


Google Fiber introduced the 2-Gig service in September 2020, with initial tests with customers in Nashville and Huntsville.


Related posts:


— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading


A version of this story first appeared on Broadband World News.





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