- A California judge ruled Monday that Uber and Lyft must classify their drivers as employees, not gig workers.
- That decision, which will go into effect next week if it is not halted by an appeal, means that employees for ride-sharing companies will be eligible to receive benefits, including health insurance, paid time off, sick leave, and overtime.
- Both Uber and Lyft have argued that the decision will cause ride costs to increase significantly and could result in mass layoffs.
- Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has proposed a third model that would establish a benefits fund, but under it, drivers would still likely not be able to see full benefits guaranteed under an employee status.
Judge Rules in Favor of California
A California judge has ruled that drivers for Uber and Lyft in the state must be reclassified as employees rather than gig workers.
Notably, that ruling means drivers will be afforded the same protections and benefits as the companies’ other full-time employees. For example, as full-time employees, drivers could be eligible for benefits like health insurance, overtime, paid sick leave, vacation time, and more. It’s also possible that Uber and Lyft would have to pay them personal vehicle mileage.
Gig workers, also known as contract or independent workers, don’t see those benefits.
The decision, which came from San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman on Monday, isn’t scheduled to take effect until next week. Uber and Lyft have also promised to appeal the ruling and block it from even going into effect.
For their part, both companies have argued that their businesses are in technology (meaning the apps themselves), not ride-sharing. They also claim that the majority of their drivers prefer being independent and deciding when they work, an aspect that likely would be harder to retain if drivers were treated as employees.
In his ruling, Schulman said both companies used “circular reasoning” by treating only their tech workers as employees, saying that reasoning “flies in the face of economic reality and common sense,”
“It bears emphasis that these harms are not mere abstractions; they represent real harms to real working people,” Schulman said regarding the current lack of benefits for drivers. “To state the obvious, drivers are central, not tangential, to Uber and Lyft’s entire ride-hailing business.”
Still, Schulman noted that for these companies, such a change in reclassification might “have an adverse effect on some of their drivers, many of whom desire the flexibility to continue working as they have in the past.”
California Sues Uber and Lyft
Last year, California passed Assembly Bill 5, a bill that requires companies to treat their workers as employees if those companies control how workers perform tasks or if their work is a routine part of the company’s business.
Specifically, AB5 was designed to target companies like Uber and Lyft. In fact, the state has argued that because these companies deal in ride-sharing, their drivers are essential to business. Therefore, they should be treated as employees.
Still, after this law went into effect at the beginning of the year, Uber and Lyft refused to adhere to it.
In May, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the companies for their refusal. Chiefly, that lawsuit seeks “restitution for workers, a permanent halt to the unlawful misclassification of drivers, and civil penalties that could reach hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Both companies—along with DoorDash—have pumped $110 million into a campaign to exempt them from the law. Because of those efforts, in November, California voters will decide on a ballot measure that could keep ride-sharing companies from having to convert their drivers into employees.
Why Uber and Lyft Are Fighting This Ruling
Uber and Lyft had argued for Schulman’s ruling to be stayed until the November ballot, but Schulman denied that request.
“The vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and we’ve already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under California law,” Uber spokesperson Matt Kallman said following the decision. “When over 3 million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression.”
Also Monday, Lyft released a similar statement saying that drivers don’t want to be employees, “full stop.”
The debate around how to address these companies’ drivers is not a black and white argument. Many people drive for Uber or Lyft on the weekends for a little extra money. Some retired individuals also drive on for these companies on the side.
But for many drivers, this may be their only job. For example, they may be currently unable to find another job. Such a situation is especially true as the United States continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, where a driver may have lost their main job and could now rely on Uber or Lyft as a main source of income.
“Today’s ruling affirms what California drivers have long known to be true: workers like me have rights and Uber and Lyft must respect those rights,” Lyft driver Mike Robinson said in a statement following Monday’s decision.
It’s also important to keep in mind that companies like Uber and Lyft were already struggling to turn a profit, and now, that’s even worse because of the coronavirus. Just between April and June, Uber’s bookings were reportedly nosedived 75%.
The prospect of having to change their business models could result in layoffs of drivers. It would likely also mean substantially higher costs for passengers.
A Potential Third Option
In the end, the decision from Schulman likely won’t stop with California. In fact, it could be the beginning of massive changes to ride-sharing companies across the U.S.
In a March letter to President Donald Trump, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi advocated for a third model on how to classify drivers. Particularly, Khosrowshahi argued that workers should be offered another way to gain protections without sacrificing the flexibility of being a gig worker.
Just hours before Schulman’s decision on Monday, Khosrowshahi outlined more details of that plan in an op-ed published by The New York Times.
“Our current employment system is outdated and unfair,” he said. “It forces every worker to choose between being an employee with more benefits but less flexibility or an independent contractor with more flexibility but almost no safety net.”
“It’s time to move beyond this false choice. As a start, all gig economy companies need to pay for benefits, should be more honest about the reality of the work, and must strengthen the rights and voice of workers.”
Khosrowshahi then proposed a model that would require gig companies “to establish benefits funds which give workers cash that they can use for the benefits they want, like health insurance or paid time off.”
“Independent workers in any state that passes this law could take money out for every hour of work they put in,” he added. “All gig companies would be required to participate, so that workers can build up benefits even if they switch between apps.”
Khosrowshahi claimed that if this had been the law nationwide, Uber would have contributed $655 million in benefits last year. To further his point, he used an example of a Colorado driver working an average of 35 hours a week last year. Under Khosrowshahi’s system, that driver would have racked up $1,350 in benefits for 2019. As Khosrowshahi noted, that’s enough to cover two-weeks time off or a median annual premium for health insurance.
But the key here is “or.” Unlike a full-time employee, this driver would need to make a decision on how to spend that accrued benefit money as they would likely not be able to choose both options.
Jake Paul Launches Anti-Bullying Charity
The charity, called Boxing Bullies, aims to use the sport to give kids confidence and courage.
Jake Paul Launches Boxing Bullies Foundation
YouTuber Jake Paul — best known as the platform’s boxer, wreckless partier, and general troublemaker — has seemingly launched a non-profit to combat bullying.
The charity is called Boxing Bullies. According to a mission statement posted on Instagram, it aims to “instill self confidence, leadership, and courage within the youth through the sport of boxing while using our platform, voice, and social media to fight back against bullying.”
If the notion of a Paul-founded anti-bullying charity called “Boxing Bullies” was not already begging to be compared to former First Lady Melania Trump’s “Best Best” initiative, maybe the group’s “Boxing Bullies Commandments” will help connect the dots. Those commandments use an acronym for the word “BOX” to spell out the charity’s golden rules.
“Be kind to everyone; Only defend, never initiate; X-out bullying.”
Paul Hopes To “Inspire” Kids To Stand Up For Themselves
Paul first said he was launching Boxing Bullies during a July 13 interview following a press conference for his upcoming fight against Tyron Woodley.
“I know who I am at the end of the day, which is a good person,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to change this sport, bring more eyeballs. I’m trying to support other fighters, increase fighter pay. I’m starting my charity, I’m launching that in 12 days here called Boxing Bullies and we’re helping to fight against cyberbullying.”
It has not been quite 12 days since the interview, so it’s likely that more information about the organization will be coming soon. Currently, the group has been the most active on Instagram, where it boasts a following of just around 1,200 followers. It has posted once to Twitter, where it has 32 followers; and has a TikTok account that has yet to publish any content. It also has a website, though there is not too much on it as of yet.
On its Instagram, one post introducing Paul as the founder claims the rowdy YouTuber started this charity because he has been on the receiving end of bullying.
“Having been a victim of bullying himself, Jake experienced firsthand the impact it has on a person’s life,” the post says. “Jake believes that this is a prevailing issue in society that isn’t talked about enough. Boxing gave Jake the confidence to not care about what others think and he wants to share the sport and the welfare it‘s had on him with as many kids as possible.”
It adds that he hopes his group can“inspire the next generation of kids to be leaders, be athletes, and to fight back against bullying.”
Paul Previously Accused of Being a Bully
While fighting against bullying is a noble cause, it is an ironic project for Paul to start, as he has faced no shortage of bullying accusations. While Paul previously sang about “stopping kids from getting bullied” in the lunchroom, some have alleged he himself was actually a classic high school bully who threw kids’ backpacks into garbage cans.
This behavior allegedly continued into his adulthood, as a New York Times report from earlier this year claimed he ran his Team 10 house with a culture of toxicity and bullying. Among other things, sources said he involved others in violent pranks, pressured people into doing dangerous stunts, and destroyed peoples’ personal property to make content.
See what others are saying: (Dexerto)
Director Defends Recreating Anthony Bourdain’s Voice With AI in New Documentary
The film’s director claims he received permission from Bourdain’s estate and literary agent, but on Thursday, Bourdain’s widow publicly denied ever giving that permission.
Bourdain’s Voice Recreated
“You are successful, and I am successful, and I’m wondering: Are you happy?” Anthony Bourdain says in a voiceover featured in “Roadrunnner,” a newly released documentary about the late chef — except Bourdain never actually said those words aloud.
Instead, it’s one of three lines in the film, which features frequent voiceovers from Bourdain, that were created through the use of artificial intelligence technology.
That said, the words are Bourdain’s own. In fact, they come from an email Bourdain reportedly wrote to a friend prior to his 2018 suicide. Nonetheless, many have now questioned whether recreating Bourdain’s voice was ethical, especially since documentaries are meant to reflect reality.
Director Defends Use of AI Voice
The film’s director, Academy Award winner Morgan Neville, has defended his use of the synthetic voice, telling Variety that he received permission from Bourdain’s estate and literary agent before inserting the lines into the film.
“There were a few sentences that Tony wrote that he never spoke aloud,” Neville said. “It was a modern storytelling technique that I used in a few places where I thought it was important to make Tony’s words come alive.”
Bourdain’s widow — Ottavia Bourdain, who is the executor of his estate — later denied Neville’s claim on Twitter, saying, “I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that.”
In another interview with GQ, Neville described the process, saying the film’s creators “fed more than ten hours of Tony’s voice into an AI model.”
“The bigger the quantity, the better the result,” he added. “We worked with four companies before settling on the best.”
“If you watch the film,” Neville told The New Yorker, “you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the AI, and you’re not going to know. We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.”
The Ethics Debate Isn’t Being Tabled
But many want to have that discussion now.
Boston-based film critic Sean Burns, who gave the film a rare negative review, later criticized it again for its unannounced use of AI, saying he wasn’t aware that Bourdain’s voice had been recreated until after he watched the documentary.
Meanwhile, The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner wrote that the “seamlessness of the effect is eerie.”
“If it had been a human voice double I think the reaction would be “huh, ok,” but there’s something truly unsettling about the idea of it coming from a computer,” Rosner later tweeted.
Online, many others have criticized the film’s use of AI, with some labeling it as a “deepfake.”
Others have offered more mixed criticism, saying that while the documentary highlights the need for posthumous AI use to be disclosed, it should not be ruled out altogether.
“In a world where the living could consent to using AI to reproduce their voices posthumously, and where people were made aware that such a technology was being used, up front and in advance, one could envision that this kind of application might serve useful documentary purposes,” David Leslie, ethics lead at the Alan Turing Institute, told the BBC.
Celebrities Recreated After Death
The posthumous use of celebrity likeness in media is not a new debate. In 2012, a hologram of Tupac took the stage 15 years after his death. In 2014, the Billboard Music Awards brought a hologram of Michael Jackson onstage five years after his death. Meanwhile, the Star Wars franchise digitally recreated actor Peter Cushing in 2016’s “Rogue One,” and unused footage of actress Carrie Fisher was later translated into “The Rise of Skywalker,” though a digital version of Fisher was never used.
In recent years, it has become almost standard for filmmakers to say that they will not create digital versions of characters whose actors die unexpectedly. For example, several months after Chadwick Boseman’s death last year, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” executive producer Victoria Alonso confirmed Boseman would not be digitally recreated for his iconic role as King T’Challa.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (Yahoo! News) (Variety)
Doctors Want You to Know: Whatever You Do, Don’t Stick Garlic up Your Nose to Try and Relieve Congestion
They warn the new TikTok trend could cause even worse problems, such as irritation and swelling.
TikTok Garlic Nose Trend
In a viral trend that feels eerily similar to the Nutmeg Challenge, doctors are now warning people against participating in a TikTok trend that has users shoving whole cloves of garlic up their noses for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
In the videos, creators claim that garlic can relieve sinus congestion, and once they pull the cloves out of their nostrils, an excessive amount of snot comes flowing out of their noses.
“Since tik tok took it down the first time. THIS IS NOT DANGEROUS. The garlic cleans out your sinuses,” TikTok user hwannah5 said in a June 25 post.
Doctors are now warning the opposite, saying that there’s no medical proof garlic acts as a decongestant.
As Dr. Richard Wender of the University of Pennsylvania told Insider, “Evidence is important, and it would be wrong to say that we’ve done extensive research about garlic in noses.”
“But in general, garlic itself and the chemicals of garlic don’t interact much with human tissue,” he added.
Wender went on to explain that stuffing one’s nose with foreign objects can actually cause irritation and swelling, rather than relief.
“Yes, it’s true that garlic has some antibacterial properties, which means it may be useful to treat a variety of common ailments,” Dr. Deborah Lee from Dr. Fox Online Pharmacy told Delish. “In one study, those who took garlic supplements for three months had less colds than those who did not. But this is not the same as actively treating a stuffy nose or blocked sinuses. Garlic is not a decongestant, and in fact, may just irritate the lining of the nose and airways and make symptoms worse.”
As far as what’s causing streams of snot to pour out of people’s noses after inserting their garlic plugs, Wender said that may be occurring because the nose produces mucus when irritated. On top of that, the cloves can also block already-existing mucus from flowing.
Instead, doctors recommend using already-known solutions if you’re feeling congested, such as vapor rubs, antihistamines, over-the-counter saline sprays, and neti pots.
TikTok user hwannah5 later responded to a doctor’s explanation that the clove blocks create rather than clear mucus, noting that others shouldn’t repeatedly try the blocks. Doctors contend that the trend should not be done at all.