Uber's CEO wants Trump to give financial help to its drivers and gig economy workers who don't count as employees

  • Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent an open letter to Donald Trump on Monday asking him to provide financial and regulatory aid to gig economy workers like Uber drivers.
  • “My goal in writing to you is not to ask for a bailout for Uber, but rather for support for the independent workers on our platform,” he wrote.
  • Khosrowshahi also argued for future legislation establishing regulations for “flexible” work, bridging the gap between independent contractors and salaried employees.
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Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has appealed to President Trump to give gig economy workers financial aid during the coronavirus crisis.

The US government is currently trying to bring in a stimulus package to stave off a looming financial crisis.

“I respectfully and urgently request that the economic stimulus you are considering, along with any other future legislative measures in response to COVID-19, include protections and benefits for independent workers, not just employees, both those who use Uber and all other across the economy” Khosrowshahi wrote in his letter on Monday.

Demand for Uber rides has plummeted by as much as 70% in some of the hardest-hit cities as the coronavirus forces people inside, and the company has repurposed its infrastructure to deliver essential goods and potentially coronavirus tests.

“My goal in writing to you is not to ask for a bailout for Uber, but rather for support for the independent workers on our platform and, once we move past the immediate crisis, the opportunity to legally provide them with a real safety net going forward.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, speaks during a news conference, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Washington D.C., U.S., March 22, 2020.
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Uber has long maintained that its drivers are contractors, not employees of the company, and fighting legal battles and navigating state legislation to protect its business model. The model means it most countries and states, Uber drivers don’t qualify for sick pay and many other benefits available to full-time employees. Uber has argued that this model of operating is similar to the business it replaced — private hire drivers for minicab firms also tend to be classified as contractors.

In his letter, Khosrowshahi said that new laws should be brought in to bridge the gap between salaried employees and independent workers.

“The current binary system of employment classification means that either a worker is an employee who is provided significant social benefits or an independent worker who is provided relatively few,” he said.

Already the coronavirus has forced Uber to alter its relationship with its drivers.

Earlier this month Uber announced it would compensate drivers placed under mandatory quarantine for 14 days, an unusual decision for a gig economy business model. Its policy was criticized by a UK drivers’ union however, because it required proof from a medical authority. In the UK, the bulk of people are not being tested for the coronavirus and, if symptomatic, have been instructed to place themselves in quarantine rather than go to a doctor.

In his letter, Khosrowshahi appeared to make the argument that given the economic damage done by the coronavirus outbreak, forcing the company to classify workers as employees would be a mistake.

“The economic challenges ahead of us mean America’s workers will need more opportunities to earn additional income, not fewer,” he wrote. “I am eager for us to work together to establish a new standard for flexible work.”

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