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Uber And Lyft Drivers Could Organize Under Assembly Bill

Eric Risberg / AP

FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2014, file photo a man leaves the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco.

Eric Risberg / AP

Update 9:50 a.m. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the bill's author, says it will not come up again this year.

"I achieved my goal of forcing a conversation on gig economy," she said in a tweet Thursday morning. "This bill will continue outside the confines of these legislative deadlines."

Original post

California lawmakers are considering new protections for workers in the so-called “gig economy,” including drivers for Uber, Lyft and PostMates, and contractors who take jobs through TaskRabbit.

A bill that would allow collective bargaining passed its first committee on Wednesday.

Before the vote, Uber and Lyft driver Harry Campbell told the committee that right now “gig” workers have to just accept companies’ terms and rates.

“There’s a real asymmetry of information and power, and that’s what it feels like to be a worker for a lot of these companies,” said Campbell.

An increasing number of companies provide technology platforms—apps—that connect independent contractors to perform services for customers.

Supporters of the bill argue that, while the contractors don’t receive health insurance or other employee benefits, their conduct is regulated by the company. By law, those contractors can’t organize. The bill would change that, allowing these workers to enter joint negotiations and strike.

Uber and Lyft are both embroiled in lawsuits about whether they should classify their workers as employees.

Business groups oppose the bill. Tech industry groups say the bill is too broad; it does not limit the number of collective bargaining units that could negotiate with each company. Jennifer Barrera of the California Chamber of Commerce also said it wouldn’t just affect the tech industry.

“This could impact obviously a host of industries, including health care, construction, agriculture, across the board,” said Barrera.

The bill’s author, Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, said that’s the point.

“We have to figure out what we’re going to do with workers who have been classified as independent contractors,” said Gonzalez. While the bill did pass the committee, Gonzalez says her goal is to start a discussion. She does not expect the measure to become law this year.