The bill is a rare win for labor advocates in what has become a protracted, multistate battle over the rights of gig drivers and their status in the economy. Uber and Lyft have long argued that their drivers are independent contractors rather than employees. They say that drivers prefer being contractors because it allows them the flexibility to choose when they work, and many drivers work only part-time.
But labor advocates contend that drivers are exploited by the companies and are being misclassified as independent even though the ride-hailing services exert significant control over their work.
The federal government has largely avoided weighing in on the debate, and the U.S. Department of Labor has not sued or targeted Uber or Lyft for misclassifying workers. Instead, the issue has played out in state courts and legislatures and on ballot measures.
New York City and Seattle have passed laws guaranteeing minimum wages for gig drivers, while the companies have prevailed in getting their preferred rules on the books in California and the rest of Washington state. Both states enacted laws that guarantee drivers some benefits, like a minimum wage, but also preclude them from becoming employees. A similar, company-backed effort was thrown out by judges in Massachusetts last year.
Senator Omar Fateh, one of the bill’s authors, cheered its passage. “These workers deserve a livable wage to provide for themselves and their families.”