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Bay Area Headlines: Tuesday, 5/5/20, PM


California Sues Ride-Hailing Companies / Homes For Oakland’s Unhoused

California Sues Ride-Hailing Companies

California is suing ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, alleging they misclassified their drivers as independent contractors under the state's new labor law.

The labor law, known as AB5 and considered the nation's strictest, took effect January 1 and makes it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees entitled to minimum wage and benefits.

The state's lawsuit alleges that Uber and Lyft haven't paid enough payroll taxes. The suit seeks restitution for unpaid wages owed to drivers, civil penalties and a permanent ruling that would prohibit the companies from misclassifying drivers in the future.

California represents Uber and Lyft’s largest source of revenue. Those companies, as well as Doordash, are funding a ballot initiative campaign to exclude their drivers from the law while giving new benefits such as health care coverage. The initiative is likely to qualify for the November ballot.

Uber said in a statement it would contest the lawsuit in court while addressing labor concerns internally. It said, “At a time when California’s economy is in crisis with 4 million people out of work, we need to make it easier, not harder, for people to quickly start earning.”

When asked about the timing of the lawsuit today, Governor Gavin Newsom said the letter of the law should have been followed long ago:

“The whole idea of misclassification didn’t just occur out of nowhere. It didn’t just jump into the consciousness of these companies in the last number of months. It certainly well predates the coronavirus.”

The state Legislature is considering amending the law, though lawmakers are split whether to broaden or narrow it. Other groups — such as freelance writers and photographers — contend they have been hurt by AB5 through unintended consequences.

Homes For Oakland’s Unhoused

The city of Oakland has launched a new program to house more than 130 homeless individuals. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced at a press conference, Tuesday morning, that the city will provide nearly 70 trailers to unhoused residents. The program will focus on housing those most at risk of COVID-19, including seniors and people with underlying health conditions. Each trailer will house two people, at a site near the Oakland Arena. Priority will be given to those who already live in East Oakland.

Mayor Schaaf said there’s already an extensive waiting list. She acknowledged that this is a small step towards sheltering Oakland’s estimated 4,000 homeless residents:

“We recognize that giving respite to 130 people does not meet the need that is out there. And we are continuing to do more every day. We are looking for ways to help our most vulnerable first, but this is a tremendous step forward.”

The trailers have water and sewage hookups. Residents will also be able to connect with social services to find permanent housing. People will begin moving in Wednesday. And currently, there is no deadline for how long they can stay.