Technology

50 gig workers killed on the job in the last five years: study

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At least 50 people working for gig companies including Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have been killed on the job in the last five years, according to a new report out Tuesday.

Their families have received little to no help from gig companies following their deaths, according to the driver-led campaign Gig Workers Rising, which put together the report.

“Workers are taking extreme risks putting their lives on the line on a daily basis, and receiving inadequate protections and benefits in return,” it reads. “This is unacceptable.”

The authors set 2017 as the start date for their analysis of publicly available data because of a spike in violence against Uber drivers in Brazil the year before that left 16 dead and brought new attention to worker safety.

In the five years since, Gig Workers Rising found, at least 50 gig workers have been killed in the U.S. while working, as well as several more abroad.

The group highlights that of the 50 killed, more than 60 percent were people of color.

“These are not isolated incidents,” said Cherri Murphy, one of the lead authors of the report and a Lyft driver since 2017.

“This is a system which has benefited corporations at the expense of Black and brown bodies … offloading risk of violence onto workers is a feature for these corporations.”

Gig Workers Rising’s analysis does not include traffic fatalities, but the report does note that they are a risk for drivers and delivery workers that adds to the elevated stress and danger of the job.

Cases of nonfatal injuries to gig workers are also a concern. In one instance, an Uber driver in Southeast Washington, D.C., was shot in the leg after being carjacked late last month.

In cases of both fatal and nonfatal injuries on the job, the report contends that gig companies have not done enough to care for victims and their families, leaving them saddled with medical debt, failing to compensate for lost work hours and abandoning loved ones.

Alyssa Lewis told Gig Workers Rising that the only thing she has heard from Lyft since her sister Isabella was killed by a passenger was a spokesperson statement in The Dallas Morning News.

“We appreciate the kind words, but it would have been more heartfelt to receive those words directly as a family from losing our loved one that was in the hands of a company who was supposed to do what they could to protect all their drivers,” Lewis said.

A Lyft spokesperson said the company tried but were unable to contact Lewis’s family.

“On the same day we learned of this tragic incident, we attempted to reach Ms. Lewis’s family to offer our support,” they said in a statement.

Adebayo Adeyemo, a Chicago-based driver who was shot in the back by an Uber passenger in October, claims not to have received any relief from the company. Adeyemo has since sued Uber.

“Rideshare companies talk a big game when it comes to safety,” said his attorney Bryant Greening, who works for the rideshare-focused firm LegalRideshare. “Yet nearly every day we hear about Uber and Lyft drivers being victimized by their passengers.”

Critics of gig companies argue that they are able to dodge responsibility because the drivers and delivery workers are independent contractors rather than full-fledged employees.

“Workers are getting into accidents, dying, and even being murdered while working,” the report reads. “But, by classifying workers as independent contractors, gig companies shut workers out of important health and safety protections most workers in the U.S. have access to, such as workers’ compensation.”

The report makes four demands on gig companies to address the risk of violence and death faced by drivers.

First, the group calls on policymakers to require future and retroactive compensation for injured or murdered workers.

Gig Workers Rising is also pushing for the end of forced arbitration agreements that many app workers are required to sign and that keep their cases out of the courts.

Multiple courts have rejected arbitration for rideshare drivers. Uber and Lyft have both publicly dropped their arbitration policies for sexual misconduct cases.

The report also calls for increased transparency when it comes to violence and harassment of rideshare workers. The group wants corporations to share data on injuries, fatalities, compensation and physical, verbal or sexual assault.

Only Uber and Lyft currently produce reports similar to what the workers are calling for.

The final demand is for gig workers to be given the right to organize unions, something that would likely require them to be reclassified as employees.

Gig companies have fought hard to keep their workers independent, pouring more than $200 million into California’s Prop 22, which enshrined independent contractor status in exchange for a partial salary floor and access to some health care stipends, and gearing up to spend millions to back a similar bill in Massachusetts.

“Each of these incidents is a horrific tragedy that no family should have to endure,” an Uber spokesperson said, adding that the platform is “not immune from society’s challenges, including spikes in crime and violence.”

“That’s exactly why we continue to invest heavily in new technologies to help improve driver safety, including our in-app emergency button with 911 integration, Follow My Ride location sharing, and newer pilots like audio recording,” they said.

“Since day one, we’ve built safety into every part of the Lyft experience,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “We are committed to doing everything we can to help protect drivers from crime, and will continue to take action and invest in technology, policies and partnerships to make Lyft as safe as it can be.”

“DoorDash takes the safety of our community extremely seriously,” a DoorDash spokesperson said. “While negative incidents are incredibly rare, we’re constantly working to improve safety for all those who use our platform.”

“We know there is always more to be done and we’re committed to listening, learning and evolving to help make Dashers and the communities we serve safer,” they added.”

“Gig Workers Rising’s reporting is riddled with inaccuracies, which call its credibility into question,” a Grubhub spokesperson said, pointing out that the report misidentified the active CEO of the company and noting that senior leadership met with and provided financial support for the family of Salauddin Bablu, the only of the 50 identified slain app workers associated with Grubhub.

“At Grubhub, the safety of our drivers and couriers is always our top priority, and our hearts go out to everyone impacted by these senseless crimes.”

The Hill has reached out to Instacart for comment on the report.

Rideshare drivers are planning protests across the country Wednesday for “National Gig Safety Day.”

Drivers with Gig Workers Rising and We Drive Progress are hosting a memorial for dead workers outside of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s San Francisco mansion in the early afternoon.

App-based workers will also be organizing a memorial in Boston featuring a speech from the sister of Will Good, who was paralyzed in an Uber accident last spring.

Updated at 1:19 p.m.

Tags California Prop 22 DoorDash gig companies Gig workers Gig Workers Rising Grubhub Instacart Lyft National Gig Safety Day Postmates Uber We Drive Progress

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