Earlier today, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a shelter-in-place order in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. The order legally requires people to stay home as much as possible unless it's essential that they leave to do things like go to the grocery store, buy gas or go to the pharmacy. So, no more going out to restaurants, gyms or nightclubs. Residents can, however, still order food for delivery from restaurants, as well as take Uber and Lyft rides, but "only for essential travel."
That means workers for Postmates, Instacart, DoorDash, and Uber Eats are still on the hook for delivering food to people, and rideshare drivers transporting passengers are at risk of contracting the virus.
As some gig workers have advocated since the beginning of the year, it's time for California to fully enforce gig worker protections law AB 5 to ensure all of these workers have access to paid sick leave, disability, family leave and unemployment insurance. Recently, Gig Workers Rising sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials asking them to step in and protect workers during this pandemic.
"We are demanding that state officials protect gig workers during the coronavirus pandemic by fully enforcing AB5 and ensuring workers have access to benefits like paid sick leave, disability, family leave and unemployment insurance," rideshare driver and Gig Workers Rising member Steve Gregg wrote in the letter. "Over the next weeks and months, these actions will be the difference between who gets to live, who gets to keep their housing, who gets to eat, and who doesn’t."
Gig economy companies have begun taking steps to help gig workers. Uber, for example, set up funds to support drivers who are infected or placed in quarantine by a public health authority. Instacart introduced a sick pay policy for in-store shoppers and extended pay for all shoppers, including independent contractors, who are affected by COVID-19. Similarly, Postmates has started offering two weeks of paid sick leave for people who test positive for the virus.
While these companies are able to subside some financial worries, these workers are still left without disability, family leave and unemployment insurance. Some workers are also without health insurance. Sure, these companies are not forcing people to keep driving and delivering food for them, but many people need the income in order to pay their rent or mortgages and support their families.
"Sickness is not an option for me because not working is not an option," rideshare driver and Gig Workers Rising member Edan A. said in a statement last week. "If I do get sick, I will have to continue to work or I will lose my ability to exist — it's not just income. Before the coronavirus outbreak, I managed to pay my bills on a monthly basis, with no room for error. Here are the things at risk: paying rent, my car payment, my health insurance, and of course food. If I have to stop working without any safety net I would lose all of these things."