At least 50 US gig workers murdered or killed since 2017 – study | gig economy

On a Sunday afternoon in August 2021, Lyft driver Isabella Lewis was shot in the head by a passenger she had just picked up and left for dead as the man fled in what appeared to be a fatal carjacking.

Lyft issued a statement to the press at the time saying it was “heartbroken by this incident” – but Allyssa Lewis, Isabella’s sister, said her family never received direct communication from the company , nor any financial compensation.

Instead, in the days following the murder, Lyft dispatched an insurance representative to Isabella’s abandoned, bullet-ridden vehicle before the family could retrieve their remaining belongings, Allyssa said.

“There’s nothing that can bring my sister back, but it would have meant a lot to be able to get Lyft to acknowledge that she died while working for them,” Allyssa said.

Isabella was one of at least 50 American workers killed on the job since 2017, according to new research by advocacy organization Gig Workers Rising. The group found that dozens of workers for companies including Lyft, Uber and Postmates have been fatally assaulted on the job – including six in the first two months of 2022. The report accuses companies of not doing enough to mitigate “an urgent security crisis”. “, or help the families of victims following attacks.

“This is a systemic and sickening practice in which these companies – which are not doing enough to protect their workers – are trying to protect their bottom line by offloading the risk onto them,” said Cherri Murphy, co-author of the report.

The victims were identified through publicly available resources, including news reports, police documents, court filings and GoFundMe fundraising campaigns, the organization said. Most gig companies don’t publicly share data on the number of deaths, meaning the numbers would likely be “much higher” than what was stated in the report, he added.

Of the more than 50 workers killed on the job, 63% were workers of color, according to the study, despite making up less than 39% of the entire American workforce. While most companies in the gig economy don’t release numbers on the diversity of their workforce, independent surveys indicate that more than 78% of gig workers are people of color.

Other studies echo these findings: A recent Pew Research Center report showed that workers of color are more likely than those who are white to say they have at least sometimes felt unsafe or been sexually harassed. at work.

Murphy herself drove for Lyft and completed more than 12,000 rides before becoming disillusioned with the lack of company support and the financial instability of the job. She said that in most cases, workers’ families do not receive any compensation for deaths that occur while working on the apps.

Such was the case for Allyssa, who said the grief she felt over her sister’s death was compounded by Lyft’s response.

“Having someone who works for your company to give them life while on the job, and their family can’t even get a pat on the back, or any personal help,” Allyssa said. “It makes it seem like she didn’t matter to them.”

Lyft spokeswoman Gabriela Condarco-Quesada said the company is “committed to doing everything we can to help protect drivers from crime” and has invested in safety technologies, policies and partnerships.

“Since day one, we’ve built security into every part of the Lyft experience,” she said. Lyft has a partnership with safety company ADT that allows drivers to connect with professionals if they feel unsafe. Lyft also proactively monitors rides and contacts drivers if it notices any irregularities to put them in touch with emergency services.

Condarco-Quesada said Lyft attempted to contact Isabella Lewis’s family the day they learned of the incident to offer support. “Unfortunately we were unable to get in touch with them,” she said.

But Veena Dubal, a professor of labor law at the University of California, Hastings, said responses like the one the Lewis family received were endemic to the business model of gig economy companies, which have fought for years to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees. right to compensation.

“These companies don’t follow best practice principles because that would make them look like a real employer,” she said.

Dubal noted that while traditional driving jobs like driving taxis had always been risky, those dangers were exacerbated by the algorithms and expectations of ride-sharing apps.

“These platforms are designed to punish drivers who don’t pick up passengers,” she said. “It means you’re constantly preoccupied with the grades and have an incentive not to trust your instincts if it tells you to end or cancel a ride.”

Small businesses have in the past recognized the problem of violent attacks on their employees. Uber took action to keep drivers safe in 2016 after 16 drivers were killed in Brazil.

But workers and officials have called on companies to do more. Gig Workers Rising has made a number of demands, including seeking workers’ compensation for workplace injuries and deaths and the right of workers to unionize.

The group called for an end to forced arbitration, which requires workers to settle such matters amicably and away from public scrutiny. Such demands have grown in popularity as politicians increasingly take on gig-economy companies.

He also called on companies to increase transparency on the number of injuries and fatalities that occur each year.

Condarco-Quesada, Lyft’s spokesperson, said the company released data in its annual Community Safety Report, which includes data on deaths that have occurred on the platform.

Uber, which owns Postmates, publishes a similar report but did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“Every worker deserves to feel safe in their workplace,” Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said in a statement. “We must support workers and demand that these companies take responsibility and pay a living wage, provide good benefits and, most importantly, ensure workplace protections that effectively and fairly protect workers from violence.”

In response to the study’s release on Wednesday, workers in five US cities are organizing a national day of action for those lost on the job, including sending an RV to the San Francisco home of Uber CEO Dara. Khosrowshahi.

“The lack of care for these workers is a direct result of a business model put in place to milk executives as much as possible,” Murphy said. “No one should be killed when they show up for work.”

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