Gig workers handed lifeline by White House stimulus plan

Washington has responded to increasingly desperate calls from concert economy leaders by agreeing to include hard workers among the beneficiaries of the $ 2 billion stimulus bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

If, as expected, the bill is passed on Friday by the House of Representatives and signed by US President Donald Trump, it will mean that carpoolers, as well as Airbnb hosts, will receive compensation for the first time. unemployment.

But by successfully lobbying for concert workers to receive the same protections as other unemployed workers during the coronavirus crisis, companies risk unraveling their own arguments for not providing any sort of safety net.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for Uber and other concert companies to continue the farce that their employees are not employees,” said Shannon Liss-Riordan, a prominent lawyer specializing in labor rights.

Harry Campbell, who runs a blog targeting drivers Uber and Lyft, said the bill offered “a lot of relief” because the use of services is collapsing.

Carpool drivers, food deliverers, Airbnb hosts and any other type of self-employed who are unemployed will be compensated through the invoice, the precise amount of which will be determined in accordance with national unemployment laws.

In California, for example, workers should receive the same amount they would get from their normal hours, capped at $ 450 per week. Under the banner of federal compensation for an unemployment pandemic, the bill includes provisions for an additional $ 600 per week.

The leader of the Senate minority, Chuck Schumer, called it a “dramatic and historic expansion” of the rights of people employed in non-traditional job models, and this is evident from lobbying by concert companies during the last month.

The leader of the Senate minority, Chuck Schumer, called it a “spectacular and historic expansion” of the rights of people in non-traditional employment models © Erik S Lesser / EPA / Shutterstock

“My goal in writing to you is not to request a bailout for Uber,” wrote Dara Khosrowshahi, chief of Uber, in a letter to Mr. Trump three days ago. “But rather for the support of the self-employed on our platform and, once we have overcome the immediate crisis, the opportunity to legally provide them with a real safety net in the future.”

Reacting to the Senate vote on Wednesday, Khosrowshahi said in a statement: “I encourage the House to act on this legislation to deal with this emergency, and I pledge that Uber will do its part to advocate in favor of new laws allowing companies like ours to provide additional benefits for the self-employed in the future. “

Airbnb chief policy officer Chris Lehane said the company “deeply appreciates the bipartisan leadership of the Senate and the House for recognizing that a new sector of the workforce depends on Airbnb for his monthly economic needs. “

Lehane had previously lobbied lawmakers to offer hosts financial relief, such as tax breaks and access to funds to support small businesses. After the travel ban, the hosts of its platform were forced by the company to fully reimburse the regions affected by the coronavirus, regardless of the cancellation policy that they had agreed with the customers at the time of booking.

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