Back in November, before the coronavirus was a factor in day to day life, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi interviewed with HBO.
During his Axios on HBO interview, the Uber CEO was asked about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government.
His response? The Saudi government “made a mistake”:
I think that government said that they made a mistake. We’ve made mistakes too, right? With self-driving, and we stopped driving, and we’re recovering from that mistake. I think that people make mistakes; it doesn’t mean that they can never be forgiven.
It should surprise no one to learn that Saudi Arabia is Uber’s fifth-largest shareholder.
You have a CEO who is willing to describe the killing of a journalist who was dismembered with a bone saw as “a mistake.” It’s probably safe to assume that they aren’t all that concerned with driver healthcare and pay rate.
Jaime Maldonado is a driver for Lyft. Like most in the gig economy, he’s finding life tough as the coronavirus tears through the United States. Speaking to the New York Times, he commented:
What am I going to do to pump gas and feed my kids tomorrow?
Drivers like Maldonado have seen their work drop by as much as 50% in recent weeks. From that reduced income, he still has to pay Lyft their rental fee for his vehicle.
These issues aren’t just confined to workers of Uber and Lyft. The entire gig economy has been operating in a precarious position for years now. A lack of guaranteed wages, health care and sick pay has long drawn the ire of people like Senator Mark Warner.
Warner has proposed federal legislation to ensure the 15 million-strong gig economy workforce is provided with benefits.
Of course, coronavirus is a pandemic, and gig workers in other parts of the world are suffering just as much. As one London Uber driver remarked:
I’ll take paracetamol if I have a temperature and pull myself up because I don’t have any other means of earning, and this is my livelihood.
In the U.S., we’ve seen growing demand for paid sick leave and insurance for people suffering from coronavirus.
Well, for employees.
What about independent contractors and gig economy workers? Many are not sure they’ll qualify.
Following the increasingly severe situation surrounding the coronavirus, gig economy leaders pledge to support workers who are struggling with the virus.
Still, according to The Guardian, some drivers don’t trust the companies to pay up.
To qualify for any sick pay, a worker would have to confirm a diagnosis for Covid-19, or prove they are subject to government-enforced quarantine.
With actual testing very difficult to access, this option won’t be available for many workers in the immediate future.
As always, gig workers will have to do what they always do. Suck it up and get on with it.