Buttigieg invigorates caravan of rideshare drivers, joins protests at Uber's SF HQ

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Democratic Presidential candidate and current mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg joined rideshare drivers protesting outside Uber's San Francisco headquarters on Tuesday.  

The caravan of gig-economy workers outside Uber's headquarters honked their horns and waved signs that read, "Drivers United," as they continue to fight to be classified as employees.

"We support you. We are with you and we thank you for raising your voices today," Buttigieg said to an invigorated group. "Where I come from, gig is another word for job, which means if you're working a gig that makes you a worker and you ought to be protected as a worker. That means you deserve a minimum wage." 

Buttigieg added that gig-economy workers deserve protection from workplace and sexual harassment as well as overtime protections. He placed emphasis on the workers' right to form a union, saying that they deserve it. 

The caravan left Los Angeles and is making its way across the state and it represents the ongoing fight that Uber and Lyft drivers have been waging.

The drivers have held protests before, but this was the first time they used their cars for a demonstration -- the very thing essential to their work.

Roughly 200 drivers took over a portion of Market Street in a "motor march," demanding that California Assembly Bill 5 be passed. The bill, authored by  Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), would create a pathway for drivers to unionize, and would classify them as employees.

It would also give them to basic worker protections, like a minimum wage, health insurance, and paid sick days. 

The gig might be up: Calif. moves to clarify who is an independent contractor and who is not

"AB5 union for me would mean I could get health care, and that I could get fare wages," said driver Latosha Houston. "That I feel we deserve." She joined the caravan and drove up from Los Angeles to show her support for her fellow gig workers. 

"I've been driving for three years and the pay is not enough because when you take into account all the taxes that we have to pay, we're not just paying taxes on the money we put in our pocket, but we're paying taxes on the money Uber and Lyft keep," Annette Rivero of San Jose said in an earlier interview.

Organizers of the rally said workers providing services for tech companies, gig workers, including drivers and delivery workers deserve to be treated like traditional employees making minimum wage and earning benefits. They said they are a growing part of the economy. 

"The thing is, Uber and Lyft are just the biggest and have the most light shining on them right now. That's why we're here today," said Annette Rivero from Gig Workers Rising. "We're making an example out of them." 

Buttigieg told KTVU said not only does he support AB5, but he wants to take it a step further. 

"My plan calls for these protections to be encoded nationally," said Buttigieg. "So, you don't have to deal with it at the state level. But I'm glad there's leadership tht is happening here on the ground." 

Uber and Lyft have been fighting the passage of the bill, but vow to keep working with drivers to improve the quality and security of independent work. 

In May, a critic of the bill, Assemblywoman Marie Waldron (R-San Diego), argued that AB5 thwarts the independence of the "gig economy."

"The overwhelming majority of independent contractors prefer the flexibility and control their working situations provide," she said in an email.

Uber released a statement Tuesday saying that the company is working to find a solution.

It reads:

After protesting in San Francisco, the drivers will head to Oakland for a rally at Taylor Memorial Methodist Church at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The motor caravan will end in Sacramento on the steps of the state Capitol on Wednesday.

The drivers kicked off their tour in Fresno. They wanted to meet with United Farm Workers to draw inspiration from that workers-rights organization. Drivers say their current "motor pilgrimage" pays homage to the UFW's famous march to Sacramento in 1966.