Uber offers to pay for drivers’ health insurance and then rips them off

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Uber mistakenly emailed some of its drivers and delivery people last month to cover some of their health insurance costs – only to cancel the offer two weeks later.

On May 26, an email from Uber with the enticing subject line, “It’s a great time getting health insurance,” appeared in the inboxes of an unspecified number of the company’s drivers and deliverers. When they opened the email, they were greeted by an even more tempting suggestion: “Uber can help meet your healthcare costs.”

Uber drivers and couriers are classified as independent contractors, so they are not eligible for employer-funded health insurance. Many of these workers have campaigned for more benefits and protection for years only to meet strong opposition from Uber.

So just imagine the shock of the drivers who opened this email and saw an offer of subsidies between $ 613.77 and $ 1,277.54 depending on the type of their insurance plan and the number of hours they each Week worked. This type of money could be transformative for drivers, many of whom live on poverty-level wages and struggle to find work in the face of a sharp drop in demand during the pandemic. What could explain Uber’s radical change of position?

The email dated May 26th promised health insurance subsidies.

The June 9 email revoking these subsidies.

As it turns out, nothing has changed. Uber intended to only send the email to drivers and delivery drivers in California, and not to any other state. “Unfortunately, we made a mistake sending this email to you as this policy only applies to drivers and delivery staff in California,” the email to a driver said. “We sincerely apologize for this mistake.”

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

Last year, Uber – along with Lyft, DoorDash, and other gig economy companies – poured over $ 200 million into the Yes on 22 campaign to exempt them from a California law that requires them to keep their workers treat like employees. Companies aggressively opposed the law, arguing it would eliminate driver flexibility while 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 subsidies at 41 percent of the average.” [California Coverage] Monthly bonus “for drivers and couriers who work an average of 15 to 25 hours a week”. This would explain the email, but doesn’t explain why it ended up in the inboxes of drivers and couriers who don’t live in California.

Edward Burmila, a political science professor who lives in Raleigh, NC and occasionally drives for Uber, received the original email about healthcare subsidies. “I may be an atypical Uber driver – I have a PhD so I think about these things in a political context – but it’s part of the ridiculous song and dance that the ridesharing always do to keep up the fiction that their workforce are not employees or workers, ”wrote Burmila The edge in an email.

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

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