‘These People Are Evil’: Drivers Speak Out Against Uber’s New Coronavirus Sick Leave Fund
The program excludes those who don’t have access to medical care or who must isolate themselves for their own protection
One morning in March, Uber driver E.W. picked up a passenger in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood. The rider appeared ill and explained that he was going to the hospital.
“He said, ‘I think I’ve got Covid-19,’” recalled E.W., who asked that OneZero not use his full name. Suddenly, the man began coughing up blood.
After completing the trip, “I completely disinfected the car and drove around with my windows open,” E.W. said. “I don’t know for a fact that he had Covid-19. It’s not like people get in with their medical records.”
Countless Uber drivers are now being pushed to the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, transporting humans, food, supplies, and maybe soon Covid-19 testing kits as shelter-in-place rules cause demand for delivery services to spike. Yet despite their exposure to infection, gig workers lack paid sick leave, health benefits, or unemployment insurance because of their status as independent contractors.
Earlier this month, Uber, Lyft, and Amazon drivers protested the exclusion of gig workers from Silicon Valley’s monumental heave to protect itself from the coronavirus. As technology employees go remote, contractors are burdened with extra demands and no additional support.
Uber, Lyft, and Amazon eventually agreed to compensate gig workers through ad hoc funds, but OneZero spoke to Uber drivers who say this is hardly a safety net.
“I think I’m going to fall through the cracks,” said Kimberly James, a 46-year-old driver for Uber Eats in Atlanta, Georgia. After a series of devastating hardships, including losing her house in a fire, James has come to rely on food delivery platforms like Uber Eats and DoorDash to survive. In 2012, James was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, and her weekly income of $400 means she cannot afford to get sick. Health officials have warned that the coronavirus is especially dangerous for immunocompromised people, so today James has no choice but to isolate indoors.