After being the largest donor of what became over $200 million to keep ride-hail drivers from becoming employees in California, Uber is now requesting the CDC classify their drivers as essential workers so they can gain priority for COVID-19 vaccines.
After proceedings in court did not go their way, Uber, Lyft and other app-based ride-hailing and delivery services spent millions to get Proposition 22 approved in California. The initiative was to keep their so-called “gig drivers” from being reclassified as employees. The initiative passed on election day and those drivers remain classified as independent contractors. Has the initiative lost, Uber, et al. would have had to offer full benefits, job protection, etc. That would have cost the companies millions each year.
Uber is now requesting that their non-employees be one of the first ones to receive COVID vaccinations.
In a letter to the CDC, Uber suggested its drivers provided critical transportation for essential workers. They also said they allowed non-essential personnel to stay home and order food.
“Early access to a vaccine would help drivers and delivery people continue to play their essential role while also reducing the risk that they may inadvertently contract, or possibly transmit the virus,” said the letter, which was signed by Danielle Burr, Uber’s head of federal affairs.
With both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines near getting emergency use authorization by the FDA, the CDC is currently deciding who/which groups should be prioritized for vaccination distribution. This is how they’re making their recommendations.
Over 300 occupations were included in a list of “essential critical infrastructure workers” that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released over the summer. Most of the industries included medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, and law enforcement. Anyway, that list did include ride-hail, taxi, delivery and car rental services.
Since May, Uber has used a process that’s not particularly foolproof to
ensure try to increase safety for its drivers and passengers, but their ridership is still significantly lower than it was a year ago. In the 3rd quarter, the ride-sharing company has seen bookings down 53%, which is still better than the 2nd quarter, when rides were down 75%. So of course, Uber would like its drivers to be vaccinated because “Our drivers have been vaccinated against COVID!” would be a big selling point for those concerned about safety. It could make their drivers feel more comfortable about driving potential passengers who have COVID. So their attempt to get their drivers to be some of the first to receive vaccines makes sense from a business point of view.
But will the CDC think it’s important from a public health POV? Will they agree that Uber drivers should get vaccinated at the same time as nurses and EMTs? Should they go ahead of those who have medical conditions that put them at increased risk of complications and death from the virus? And what about the Uber drivers who refuse to get vaccinated? What will happen to them?
I guess we’ll wait and see.
What do you think? Should Uber drivers get priority for COVID vaccines, once they become available?
Feature Photo: Pikist
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary