Uber mistakenly e-mailed some of its drivers and couriers last month offering to cover some of the health insurance costs – only to revoke the offer two weeks later.
On May 26, an email from Uber with the catchy subject line “This is a great time to get health coverage” appeared in the inboxes of an unspecified number of the company’s drivers and couriers. When they opened the email, they were greeted by an even more compelling proposition: “Uber can help cover your healthcare costs.”
Uber drivers and couriers are classified as independent contractors, making them ineligible for employer-sponsored health insurance plans. For years, many of these workers have lobbied for more benefits and protections, only to face strong opposition from Uber.
Therefore, we can only imagine the shock of the drivers who opened this email and saw an offer of subsidies ranging from $613.77 to $1,277.54, depending on the type of insurance plan they had and the amount of hours worked per week. That kind of money can be transformative for drivers, many of whom survive. poverty level wages and are struggling to find work in the midst of a sharp drop in demand during the pandemic. What could explain this radical change in Uber’s position?
It turns out that nothing has changed. Uber only intended to send the e-mail to drivers and couriers in California, not any other state. “Unfortunately, we made a mistake in sending this email to you, as this policy only applies to drivers and delivery people in California,” the email to one driver read. “We sincerely apologize for this mistake.”
A spokesman said the company’s support team is working with drivers and couriers who mistakenly received the email.
Last year, Uber – along with Lyft, DoorDash and other giant companies – poured over $200 million in the “Yes in 22” campaign to exempt them from a California state law that would require them to treat their workers as employees. Companies aggressively opposed the law, arguing that it would eliminate driver flexibility while increasing consumer prices and waiting times. The measure was approved in November 2020 with 59 percent of the vote.
Under Proposition 22, Uber and other labor companies are required to “provide health grants equal to 41 percent of the average [California Coverage] prize for each month “for drivers and messengers” with an average of 15 to 25 hours per week of engagement time”. That would explain the email, but it doesn’t explain why it also ended up in the inboxes of non-California drivers and couriers.
Edward Burmila, a political science professor who lives in Raleigh, NC and occasionally drives for Uber, received the original email about health grants. “I may be an atypical Uber driver – I have a PhD and therefore tend to think of these things in a political context – but it’s part of the ridiculous song and dance that the carpool companies are always doing to maintain the fiction that sweats. workforce are not employees or workers,” Burmila wrote to The Verge in an email.
He added: “It also demonstrates that they will provide benefits – to passengers or passengers – only when they are forced to.”