Gig worker bill backed by Uber and Lyft passes in Washington State House

It gives drivers access to benefits while still classifying them as gig workers.

Hand of man using a mobile phone on the street. Use of transportation app (twinsterphoto via Getty Images)

A new bill that guarantees benefits for ride-hail drivers while still classifying them as gig workers has passed the Washington State House. It's backed by Uber and Lyft, as well as the local Teamsters union, and represents a compromise between all parties involved. Under the legislation, drivers are guaranteed benefits that include paid sick leave, a minimum pay rate and a resource center for drivers who want to appeal their deactivation — all while still being classified as gig workers.

Meanwhile, the companies can't set their workers' schedules under the legislation, and cities won't have the power to regulate ride-hailing firms. According to LaborNotes, the bill is getting mixed reception from drivers, with some arguing that the benefits may not be enough.

Uber, Lyft and other gig companies have long fought attempts to force them to classify their workers as employees, even spending hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure that's the case. In California, the companies spent over $200 million to campaign for Proposition 22, a ballot that overturns a local law that made drivers full employees. The companies prevailed, and the proposition passed with a decently wide margin.

Peter Kuel, president of the Teamsters-affiliated Drivers Union, told Bloomberg:

"Thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers — predominantly immigrants and people of color — will benefit from this long overdue expansion of pay raises, benefits and protections statewide."

LaborNotes says, though, that Drivers Union supported the bill mainly because the companies threatened to pursue a ballot initiative if they don't get a compromise in Washington. Don Creery, a Drivers Union board member, told the publication:

"They're also holding the gun at our heads with the possibility of an initiative. They spent $200 million on California. It comes down to the reality that we don't have the money to buy TV ads. They do. They will misinform the public with a barrage of TV ads, so we will lose an initiative. We could lose everything."

The legislation is now heading to the State Senate, which will hold a public hearing for it today, February 26th.