Today’s News and Commentary — May 30, 2018

Published May 30th, 2018 -  - 05.30.184


The city of San Francisco subpoenaed Uber and Lyft yesterday, demanding that the ride-hailing companies turn over records relating to driver pay and benefits, as well as information pertaining to whether drivers are classified as employees or independent contractors.  City Attorney Dennis Herrera stated that San Francisco would not “turn a blind eye if companies . . . deny workers their pay and benefits.”  Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court adopted a more worker-friendly test for determining whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor in Dynamex Operations West, Inc.  Under the so-called ABC test, a company that seeks to classify a worker as an independent contractor has the burden of proving that the worker is not under its direct control, does not perform a core function of its business, and is engaged in an independent business.  As Professor Sachs wrote, it will be difficult—if not impossible—for Uber and Lyft to meet this burden.  Litigation by the city of San Francisco could cause the ride-hailing companies to reclassify their drivers, who have signed arbitration agreements barring them from bringing class and collective actions that could otherwise spur reclassification.

Meanwhile, members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance rallied outside of City Hall to call for better regulation of ride-hailing services.  The group is calling for a quota on the number of ride-hailing cars on the road at any given time and uniform minimum metered fares for all drivers, which it claims will increase wages across the industry.  The demonstration was spurred by a string of recent suicides; five taxi drivers have taken their lives in as many months.  Bhiravi Desai, executive director of the NYTWA, stated that increased competition from Uber and Lyft had decreased wages and driven many drivers to desperation.

Starbucks closed 8,000 stores across the country to conduct anti-bias training for around 175,000 employees.  The four-hour training session consisted of educational videos featuring celebrities and public figures, and interpersonal discussion designed address employees’ implicit bias toward customers.  Tuesday’s training comes in the wake of widespread criticism and media scrutiny following an incident in which an employee in Philadelphia called the police on two black men after denying them access to the restroom.  The company pledged to provide continuing education for its employees to ensure that all are welcome in its stores.

As anticipated, over 3,000 workers at Canadian Pacific Railway went on strike late Tuesday night, bringing Canada’s second-largest rail network to a halt.  While CP reached a tentative agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, it failed to do so with Teamsters Canada, the company’s largest union.  A spokesman for the Teamsters stated that union representatives would remain at the bargaining table in an effort to reach an agreement.  The walkout followed several months of failed contract negotiations between CP and the Teamsters, which is seeking better benefits and more predictable work schedules for its members.

South Africa’s National Assembly passed a minimum wage bill yesterday.  An overwhelming majority of representatives voted in favor of the bill, which sets the national minimum wage at R3,500 per month, equivalent to $277 USD.  While supporters hailed the bill as a means of reducing income inequality and poverty, domestic and international critics argued that the wage has been set too high and is likely to increase unemployment.  The National Assembly also passed the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, which would force unions to use a secret ballot initiative when voting to strike.

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