Uber offers to pay for drivers’ health insurance, then snatch it away

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Uber accidentally emailed some of its drivers and delivery drivers last month offering to cover part of their health insurance – only to withdraw the offer two weeks later.

On May 26, an email from Uber with the tantalizing subject line “It’s a good time to get health coverage” appeared in the inboxes of an unspecified number of the company’s drivers and delivery drivers. When they opened the email, they were greeted with an even more compelling proposition: “Uber can help cover your healthcare costs.”

Drivers and couriers for Uber are classified as independent contractors, making them ineligible for employer-sponsored health insurance. For years, many of these workers have lobbied for more benefits and protections, only to meet brutal opposition from Uber.

So you can only imagine the shock of drivers who opened this email and saw an offer for grants ranging from $613.77 to $1,277.54 depending on the type of insurance plan they had and the number of hours they worked per week. week worked. That kind of money could be transformative for drivers, many of whom live on poverty wages and struggle to find work amid a sharp drop in demand during the pandemic. What could explain this radical change in position by Uber?

The May 26 e-mail promises grants for health insurance.

The e-mail of 9 June in which these subsidies are withdrawn.

It turns out that nothing has changed. Uber was only intended to send the email to drivers and delivery drivers in California, not to any other state. “Unfortunately, we made a mistake in sending you this email as this policy only applies to drivers and delivery drivers in California,” the email read to one driver. “Our sincere apologies for this error.”

A spokesperson said the company’s support team is working with drivers and delivery drivers who accidentally received the email.

Last year, Uber — along with Lyft, DoorDash and other gig economy companies — put more than $200 million into the “Yes on 22” campaign to exempt them from a California state law that would require them to hire their employees. to be treated as employees. The companies are aggressively opposing the law, arguing that it would eliminate driver flexibility while also increasing consumer prices and waiting times. The measure was passed in November 2020 with 59 percent of the vote.

Under Prop 22, Uber and other gig work companies are required to “provide health care subsidies equal to 41 percent of the average” [California Coverage] premium per month” for drivers and couriers “who are busy on average between 15 and 25 hours a week.” This would explain the email, but not explain why it also ended up in the inboxes of drivers and couriers not living in California.

Edward Burmila, a political science professor who lives in Raleigh, NC and occasionally drives for Uber, received the original email about health care grants. “I may be an atypical Uber driver – I got a PhD and I tend to think about these things in a political context – but it’s part of the ridiculous song-and-dance that the ride-share companies always do.” to maintain the fiction that their workforce is not workers or laborers,” Burmila wrote: The edge in an email.

He added: “It also shows that they only offer benefits – for riders or passengers – if they are forced to.”