California sues Uber, Lyft over driver classification

California's Attorney General and the city attorneys of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego are jointly suing rideshare giants Uber and Lyft for continuously violating AB-5. 

That controversial law requires many so-called "gig workers", such as Uber and Lyft drivers, to be made into full-time employees, and treated, paid and benefited as one would be. 

Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys will seek the injunction in court Thursday. The question is: is this the next major step aimed at closing down the rideshare giants if they continue to deliberately break the law?

Rideshare drivers gathered on Wednesday in a parking lot near San Jose Airport to enlist more members and support the pro-AB-5 lawsuit, which would force Uber and Lyft to make them full employees. 

"The pay cuts have come one after another, very relentlessly and it's tough to make it. It's twice as tough for anyone in the Bay Area," said organizer Chris Arellano of Rideshare Drivers United.

KTVU went on a ride with Uber driver Daniel Damma, who said, to make ends meet, he must drive a minimum of 12 hours a day, seven days a week. 

"Once in a while I take a Sunday off because I want to go to church, but sometimes I have to work because I cannot afford it," said Damma.

The attendees also came to pick up Personal Protective Equipment, donated by Vytality Health, which they say the companies do not provide.

“I think it's something like ten times more dangerous than the flu and drivers are taking all different kinds of people and are getting into close contact with them for hours every day," said Minda Aguhob who founded Vytality Health, a non-profit to assist drivers. 

Drivers also want plastic safety shields between them and riders. "That should have been something that we were given right from the beginning to include in our cars as part of critical equipment from drivers," said Aguhob.

The fear of coronavirus is well-founded. "It's very dangerous to drive already. But with this whole pandemic, it's even that much more dangerous to drive. So, PPE is critical for drivers. You really can't drive without this stuff," said Aguhob.

The state and the city-sponsored lawsuit say that Uber’s and Lyft’s misclassification of drivers, as independent contractors, “deprives workers of critical workplace protections such as the right to minimum wage and overtime, and access to paid sick leave, disability insurance, and unemployment insurance.”

According to driver Arellano, they actually do qualify, but Uber and Lyft refuse to play it.

And while this goes on, Uber and Lyft are funding a major media campaign featuring other drivers who would prefer to be so-called gig workers. 

"It's gonna be a union, that's gonna be the only way to enforce the rights that we have," said Arellano.

Uber and Lyft are also providing heavy funding for Prop. 22 on the November ballot to keep their drivers independent workers, not employees.