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Lyft, Uber to continue operations in California, including Orange County, after emergency order granted

Jeff and Christy Labarthe take an Uber driven by Arad Aryan at John Wayne Airport.
Jeff and Christy Labarthe take an Uber driven by Arad Aryan at John Wayne Airport on Thursday, Aug. 20.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

With the granting of an emergency stay order Thursday, Uber and Lyft will be able to continue operations in California for now.

Social media in Orange County surged with posts from drivers about the granting of the emergency stay, which will hold off an order from San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman that requires the companies to classify their drivers as employees with benefits rather than as independent contractors.

Initial appeals of the order were dismissed and both Uber and Lyft filed pleas for the immediate stay to a state appeals court that were subsequently granted.

Rideshare drivers were seen picking up passengers at John Wayne Airport on Thursday afternoon.

Both companies will now have two weeks to provide a sworn statement from their chief executives by early September that says they will come into compliance if the court does not decide in their favor. Both companies have five days from Thursday to agree to the process laid out by the court.

Arguments are scheduled for Oct. 13.

A blog post posted by Lyft Thursday morning said it planned to shut down operations in California at midnight, arguing that the company would need to rehaul its entire business model to comply with Assembly Bill 5, a state labor law signed in Sept. 2019 that aims to decrease worker misclassification.

Lyft argues compliance with AB 5 would reduce service for passengers, raise costs for riders and reduce drivers by about 80% with those remaining to work in shifts with capped hourly earnings.

Uber driver Arad Aryan helps Jeff and Christy Labarthe with their luggage at John Wayne Airport on Thursday, Aug. 20.
Uber driver Arad Aryan helps Jeff and Christy Labarthe with their luggage at John Wayne Airport on Thursday, Aug. 20.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Uber posted Tuesday that it may need to suspend rideshare operations in the state if the company was not successful in its appeal and stated its support of Proposition 22, a ballot measure backed by both companies that would define rideshare companies and delivery drivers as independent contractors.

“While we won’t have to suspend operations tonight, we do need to continue fighting for independence plus benefits for drivers,” Julie Wood, a spokesperson for Lyft said in a statement.

“That’s the solution on the ballot in November,” Wood said, “and it’s the solution drivers want because it preserves their ability to earn and to use the platform as they do now — whenever they want — while also getting historic new benefits.”

“Without it, 80 [to] 90% of Californians who earn on app-based platforms will lose that opportunity,” Wood said.

Uber spokesperson Javi Correoso said, “We are glad that the court of appeals recognized the important questions raised in this case and that access to these critical services won’t be cut off while we continue to advocate for drivers’ ability to work with the freedom they want.”

Neither company had specific numbers for how many drivers are registered in Orange County, but Lyft reported an estimated 305,000 California drivers in 2019 and Uber reported close to 100,000.

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