Uber and Lyft have ramped up their lobbying power in recent years as they face a potential death blow in California with the state’s Assembly Bill 5, which went into effect in January and requires the ridesharing giants to reclassify their independent contractors as employees.
Uber and Lyft initially resisted the law by arguing that it didn’t apply to them, but a judge ruled on August 10th that the companies must classify their contract drivers as employees with full benefits, such as health insurance, workers’ compensation, and paid sick leave.
Executives at Uber and Lyft said they would have to shut down ridership in California as a result, but an appeals court granted the companies a temporary reprieve Thursday by delaying the deadline that they have to comply with the order to next Tuesday.
Last year, when Assembly Bill 5 was being debated in California’s Congress, both Uber and Lyft spent seven figures each lobbying the state of California, according to a report in OpenSecrets, an arm of the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.
Both companies have also shifted their sights to the federal government.
Uber spent $2.36 million lobbying the federal government in 2019, according to OpenSecrets data, and is on track to spend that much this year — already spending $1.2 million on lobbying so far in 2020.
Uber currently has 39 lobbyists deployed, 33 of which are “revolvers” — individuals who used to work for the government but now work for lobbying firms.
The ridesharing giants may have to put even more of their money into lobbying if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins in November.
The former vice president has routinely expressed support for California’s AB5 bill and says he would like to see a national version.
One bill that would likely upend the so-called “gig economy” is the PRO Act, or “Protecting the Right to Organize Act.” The bill, which was passed in the House of Representatives in February, would revise “the definition of ‘employee’ and ‘supervisor’ to prevent employers from classifying employees as exempt from labor law protections.” Both Uber and Lyft have lobbied hard against this bill.
A bill that Uber and Lyft have lobbied in favor of is the NEW GIG Act, or “New Economy Works to Guarantee Independence and Growth Act.” The bill would establish federal guidelines to determine whether or not a service provider should be classified as a full-fledged employee or an independent contractor.