The group of drivers claimed Tuesday that Uber and Lyft are engaging in anti-competitive practices by setting prices that customers pay and restrict drivers’ ability to choose the cars they accept without penalty.
The drivers, backed by the Rideshare Drivers United defense group, filed the new legal case in a government case aimed at a lengthy debate on the working conditions of gig economic workers.
For years, Uber and Lyft have argued that their drivers should be considered as independent contractors rather than employees under labor laws, meaning that they will be responsible for their own costs and are generally not eligible for unemployment or health benefits. In exchange, companies argued, drivers could set their own clocks and maintain more freedom than they could if they were employees.
But in their complaint, which was filed in the Supreme Court in San Francisco demanding status in the classroom, the three drivers claim that Uber and Lyft, while treating them as independent contractors, did not give them their freedom and tried to avoid giving them to drivers. benefits and protection of employment status while imposing restrictions on how they work.
“They make lawmakers as they go along. They do not treat me like a free man, they do not treat me like an employee,” said one of the complainants, Taje Gill, a Lyft and Uber driver in Orange County, Calif.
In 2020, Uber and Lyft campaigned for drivers and voters to support the voting process in California that would curb the status of free contract drivers. The companies said such a move would help drivers by giving them flexibility, and Uber also began allowing drivers in California to set their own standards after the government passed a law requiring the company to treat contract workers as employees. Drivers thought the new flexibility was a sign of what life would be like if voters approved the voting process, Recommendation 22.
Drivers were also added to the place where passengers wanted to travel before accepting the trip. The vote was over, before the judge overturned it.
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The following year, new driver options were pushed back. Drivers said they had lost the ability to set their own fares and now had to meet requirements – such as accepting five out of 10 trips – to see details about the trip before accepting them.
The drivers said they now lack the benefits of being an employee and that of being an independent contractor. “I did not see this as fair and reasonable,” Mr. Gill said.
Not being able to see where the passengers are going before accepting a trip is a matter of great concern, said the drivers. It sometimes leads to unexpected overnight trips to remote airports or off-road areas that are not cost effective.
“Millions of people choose to earn revenue on platforms like Uber because of the unique freedom and flexibility it offers,” Noah Edwardsen, a spokesman for Uber, said in a statement. “These complaints are misunderstood by the facts and applicable law, and we intend to defend ourselves accordingly.”
In this case, drivers are requesting that Uber and Lyft be barred from “adjusting car share prices” and “blocking fare and destination data from drivers when giving them to drivers” and should give drivers “transparency for miles, per minute payment. or for each trip “instead of using” hidden algorithms “to identify compensation.
The drivers are suing on the basis of unreliability, arguing that if they are identified as independent contractors, then Uber and Lyft are entering the open market by imposing restrictions on how they operate and how much they charge their passengers.
“Uber and Lyft are employers who are responsible for their employees under labor standards, or are bound by laws that prohibit powerful corporations from using their market power to set prices and engage in other practices that hinder fair competition,” the case says.
Experts said the complaint would be long-standing in a federal court, where judges usually use the “cause code” to weigh allegations of mistrust against consumer welfare. Federal courts often allow anti-competitive practices that no doubt benefit consumers.
For example, Uber and Lyft could argue that the barriers seen in the competition help reduce customer waiting time by ensuring an adequate supply of drivers. The case argues that allowing drivers to set their own prices may result in lower fares for customers, because Uber and Lyft set the bulk of the fare and what customers pay usually has to do with what drivers get.
Either way, California courts could be more sympathetic to at least some of the claims in the complaint, experts said.
“If you apply some of the rules strategically, it is best for the plaintiff in the state court and under California law in particular,” said Josh P. Davis, head of the San Francisco Bay Area office of Berger Montague.
“You can find a judge who says: ‘This is not federal law. This is state law. And if you apply it directly, fix all the gig economy problems and look at this, we have a law that says you can’t do this,’ ‘ “Mr. Davis said.
Peter Carstensen, a retired professor of law at the University of Wisconsin, said he was skeptical that the drivers would be swayed by their claims that Uber and Lyft were setting prices that drivers could illegally charge.
But Mr. Carstensen said a federal judge could rule on the plaintiff’s side of the so-called vertical barriers, such as incentives that help keep drivers on one of the platforms by, for example, guaranteeing them at least $ 1,000 if they complete 70. travel between Monday and Friday. The judge may conclude that these incentives are largely in place to reduce competition between Uber and Lyft, he said, because they make drivers less likely to change systems and make it harder for a new sports platform to hire drivers.
“It makes it very difficult for a third party to enter,” Mr. Carstensen said.
David Seligman, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said the case could benefit from the increased scrutiny of anti-competitive practices.
“We think that policymakers and lawyers and the courts across the country are paying more attention and more closely examining the ways in which companies and corporations are abusing their power in the labor market,” he said. Seligman said.
The drivers say the recovery of options such as setting their own prices has made it more difficult to earn a living as a gig worker, especially in recent months as gas prices have risen and competition among drivers has begun to return to pre-disaster levels.
“It’s been very difficult to make money,” said another complainant, Ben Valdez, a driver in Los Angeles. “Enough. There’s just so much one can take.”