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Uber, Lyft drivers allege lack of protections amid COVID-19 outbreak

Rideshare and delivery drivers are pushing for safety protections to guard against COVID-19.

A coalition of more than 16,000 Los Angeles-area rideshare and delivery drivers claim their companies are failing to comply with a city mandate that directs employers to protect essential workers from COVID-19 by providing cloth face coverings and other safety measures.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Worker Protection Order was issued April 7.

The Mobile Workers Alliance — which includes Uber and Lyft rideshare drivers, as well as UberEats, Door Dash and Postmates delivery drivers — is calling on Garcetti and L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer to hold gig companies accountable and protect public health.

Access to basic personal protective equipment, the alliance said, is critical for app-based workers who have been delivering food, groceries and other necessities to residents sheltering in place, as well as rides for frontline healthcare workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Letter sent to L.A. city attorney

In a letter sent to Feuer, the coalition said: “Our employers have done nothing to help drivers, forcing us to supply our own personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and sanitizer.”

Alliance spokesman Mike Long, who is also affiliated with Service Employees International Union, Local 721, said drivers fear for their safety.

“There is a lot of fear and uncertainty out there with everything that’s going on,” he said. “In our survey among members, folks say they have not received any protection from Uber, and Lyft has taken some half-measures.”

Lyft’s “half measures” include a distribution hub that was set up last week in downtown L.A. for drivers, Long said.

“They are only allowed one single-use paper mask and one small bottle of hand sanitizer per week,” he said.

Drivers connected with local manufacturers

Representatives from Feuer’s office could not be reached Wednesday, but the mayor’s office said it also received a letter from the alliance and has connected drivers with manufacturers that are producing free cloth face coverings through the city’s L.A. Protects program.

The program has enlisted the help of more than 1,700 businesses to produce urgently needed face masks and other protective gear for essential workers amid the health crisis.

Luz Laguna, who drives for Uber Eats, said she had to buy her own cloth mask.

“Uber sent us a message a week ago and said they would provide us with safety equipment, but I don’t think any of the drivers have gotten them,” the 39-year-old Long Beach resident said.

Garcetti’s Worker Protection Order says fabric face coverings that cover the nose and mouth, such as scarves or bandanas, must be provided to “taxis, ride-sharing services, car rental companies and other private transportation services,” as well as “individuals and businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, beverages or goods directly to residences or businesses.”

AB 5

Assembly Bill 5, which took effect in January, reclassified rideshare drivers working for Uber, Lyft and other companies as employees of the businesses they drive for. Prior to that, they were viewed as independent contractors.

Long said the masks are sorely needed, as drivers are still interacting with the general public.

“Drivers are seeing that folks are using the rideshare apps less and less, but more people are relying on grocery deliveries, so drivers are moving over to services like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart,” he said.