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California vs. Ride-share Companies

2020-08-20 10:30:02
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In September, California approved a bill with the power to reshape the state’s gig economy. Under the new law, companies are required to treat contract workers as employees if they contribute to the company’s core business, among other factors. That means providing them benefits like paid overtime and health insurance.

The new law threatened app-based companies that rely on independent labor, and the state sued Uber and Lyft in May for violating it.

“The perspective of the state is that gig work has become wildly popular, even though it does not have legal recognition in California,” said Kate Conger, who covers technology at The Times, “and the right thing to do is pull those jobs back into a traditional employment model.”

This month, a judge gave the ride-hailing companies until Thursday to comply; the companies appealed the ruling and said they may suspend their services in the state. Before the coronavirus pandemic, California accounted for 16 percent of Lyft’s total rides and 9 percent of Uber’s, The Wall Street Journal reports. The shutdown would be another hit to the businesses, which have seen a nosedive in rides since the virus hit.

The pandemic has also heightened the burden on independent contractors. “Drivers can’t take paid time off, don’t have health insurance, rides have plummeted, but they still have vehicle expenses, so they were left out on a ledge in this scenario,” Kate said.

While many drivers want to become employees, others who don’t drive full-time oppose the legislation, preferring the flexibility that comes with staying independent.

The companies have poured tens of millions of dollars into a November ballot measure that would exempt them from the law and provide minimum-wage standards and limited health benefits for drivers. They’ve also been exploring a franchise-like model, in which they would license their brands to operators of vehicle fleets in California.

The legal fight in California could influence the gig economy nationwide. Similar battles are taking place in Massachusetts and other states are monitoring the outcome closely, Kate said.

“Long term, I think we will see significant changes to gig work,” she said, “but it’s not clear to me who is going to win the tug-of-war.”


It can be hard to know how worried to be about your chances of contracting the coronavirus. Here are some ways to think about and cope with the risks.

Practice harm reduction. Keeping in mind basic factors about your likelihood of getting sick can help you assess risk amid changing information about the virus, explains Dana Smith of Elemental. Those basics include knowing the scale of the outbreak where you live, wearing a mask and avoiding others if you’re immunocompromised or elderly.

Develop a tolerance. The virus isn’t going away anytime soon. Learning to live with it means accepting the small levels of risk that remain even after you’ve taken steps to stay safe, argues Elisabeth Rosenthal in a Times Op-Ed.

Keep perspective. Many activities — like exercising outside — are low risk. Others, like grocery shopping and even riding on an airplane while masked, seem to be less risky than you might think. Vox, Business Insider and The Times’s Tara Parker-Pope have written guides to help you weigh the risks of everyday activities.

Sabudana khichdi, which loosely translates to “tapioca mixture,” is a chewy pilaf studded with toasted peanuts, creamy potato and cumin seeds. It’s a simple dish that is a party of textures and flavors — here’s how to make it.


Have you ever considered the complex history of human excrement? Or how the power of surveillance can be viewed through the lens of migratory birds? Or maybe how information about the weather could help predict the spread of disease?

They seem random and unrelated, but these are all questions Latif Nasser, a science journalist known for his work on the popular program “Radiolab,” explores in his new Netflix series, “Connected.” Nasser, who has a Ph.D. in the history of science, serves as a unique guide to the world’s deepest curiosities. Read our enlightening interview with him here.


Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Shape of a hockey rink (four letters).

You can find all of our puzzles here.


Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.

P.S. Join the actresses Tichina Arnold and Beth Behrs, stars of the TV show “The Neighborhood,” for a discussion of their experiences in Hollywood and their advocacy for women’s empowerment. The free event begins at 5:30 p.m. Eastern; R.S.V.P. here.

David Leonhardt, this newsletter’s usual writer, is on break until Monday.

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about Joe Biden’s long quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. And in “Nice White Parents,” our new podcast from Serial, we explore the 60-year relationship between white parents and public schools. Listen to the whole series now.

You can reach the team at [email protected].

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