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Washington Legislature passes rideshare drivers benefits bill

Legislation staking a middle ground between independent contractor and employee when it comes to modern-day carpool drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft passed the Washington State Legislature and is on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

House Bill 2076, dubbed the “Expanding Fairness” bill, guarantees benefits for rideshare drivers while still maintaining their status as gig workers and not company employees.

On Monday, HB 2076 passed the House in a concurrence vote to reconcile the differences between the version of the bill that passed the Senate the previous Friday.

Under the compromise legislation, drivers are guaranteed benefits that include paid sick leave, a minimum pay rate, and a resource center for drivers who want to appeal their deactivation. Meanwhile, rideshare companies can’t set their workers’ schedules, and cities won’t have the power to regulate said companies.

“I’m proud to have introduced and passed first-in-the-nation legislation advancing the rights of rideshare drivers in Washington,” Rep. Liz Berry, D-Seattle, prime sponsor of the bill, said in a Washington State House Democrats’ press release.  “The drivers have been my North Star throughout this process. They have been asking for statewide pay raises, deactivation protections, and benefits – a better quality of life and future. I will continue to listen all the way to the finish line.”

Response to the passage of the legislation has been mixed.

“Although we prefer that companies and their workers negotiate the terms of employment without state government involvement, we have no problem with the details of HB 2076,” explained Steve Greenhut, Western region director at the R Street Institute, in an email to The Center Square. “It provides minimum pay, sick leave and other protections.”

Greenhut went on to note, “Indeed, Lyft and Uber have publicly supported the proposal. It’s a far better approach than the one taken in California, which tried to ban independent contracting – and merely threatened (until voters intervened) the continued existence of these flexible ridesharing jobs.”

In September 2019, California legislators approved a bill requiring companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees. In November 2020, nearly 59% of voters passed Proposition 22 exempting rideshare firms from having to classify their gig workers in the state as employees rather than independent contractors.

The Alameda Superior Court of California in August 2021 ruled Proposition 22 violates the California constitution and must be struck down in its entirety.

The people most impacted by HB 2076 – rideshare drivers – also had different takes on the legislation and what it means for the industry in Washington state.

Walt Ellis, a Bellingham resident who has driven for Uber and Lyft for seven years, thinks the legislation will benefit rideshare drivers.

“Year after year, our pay has been reduced, requiring us to work longer and drive further to make ends meet,” he said in the Democrats’ press release. “I’m proud to be a part of a driver movement that has won first-in-the-nation protections, benefits, and pay raises statewide. This victory puts an end to unsustainable pay cuts and moves drivers forward where our pay will rise with the cost of living.”

Luke Thompson, a former rideshare driver from the Seattle area, noted the potential tradeoffs.

“It could be a mixed bag as it gives a consistent rate for drivers across the state, but will likely raise prices further and decrease demand,” he said.

This article was originally posted on Washington Legislature passes rideshare drivers benefits bill

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