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50+ Gig Workers Killed Since 2017: New Research on Death & Corporate Irresponsibility in the Gig Economy

By Anna Peel. Originally published at ValueWalk.

NYC coronavirus stimulus check

In response, workers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and San Diego rally to demand safety, transparency, compensation and a union

Gig Workers Killed Since 2017

Oakland, CA — Today, Gig Workers Rising released a new report titled: Death & Corporate Irresponsibility in the Gig Economy: An Urgent Safety Crisis. The report found accounts of more than 50 app workers who have been killed on the job since 2017, including 6 in the first two months of 2022. Workers of color and their families were most harmed: the research shows that more than 60% of the killed workers identified in the report were people of color, although they comprise less than 39% of the overall workforce in the U.S. economy.


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“No one when they show up to work should be killed. The lack of care for these workers is a direct outcome of a business model set up to milk as much as possible for executives,” said Cherri Murphy, a former driver for Lyft and organizer with Gig Workers Rising.

App corporations are not doing enough to protect the people who make their apps run. Instead, the bedrock of their model is to offload risk onto workers. This means too many workers are shut out of safety nets like workers’ compensation and, despite how dangerous the work is, too many workers are left on their own to figure out strategies to protect themselves.

“Every worker deserves to feel safe in their workplace. As this report makes clear, major corporations including Uber, Lyft, and Doordash have failed to take the steps necessary to effectively protect workers – from harassment, assault, and even death – and these risks are only compounded when workers are misclassified as independent contractors,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07).

“That’s why we must stand with workers and demand that these corporations take responsibility and pay a living wage, provide good benefits, and, crucially, guarantee workplace protections that effectively and equitably shield workers from violence.” 

Supporting Workers And Their Surviving Families

This report shows that after a worker’s tragic death, the corporations they work for too often send “thoughts and prayers” through news reporters, but do not consistently support workers or their surviving families with basic protections like workers’ compensation.

“Every worker in Illinois deserves a safe working environment, including gig workers. No family should have to worry about whether a loved one will make it home from work safely, and my heart goes out to the families of gig workers whose lives were taken while they were on the job,” Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said.

“The gig economy has changed how we live and how many of us work. However, those innovations must also reflect our fundamental values to provide protections for workers and support for their families when tragedy strikes. I remain committed to protecting all Illinois workers and ensuring they can exercise their rights to safe working conditions and fair benefits.”

Some app corporations are extremely adept and tracking and collecting data on their customers and workforces when it is for their own bottom line. The relative lack of action on worker safety, in comparison, speaks volumes.

Further, the actual number of worker deaths is likely to be higher than what is in the report, as app corporations do not regularly disclose the number of homicides that occur for people working using their app.

“My sister lost her life over a Lyft trip that totaled to be 15 dollars. Fifteen dollars that she couldn’t even take with her when losing her life for it,” said Alyssa Lewis, whose sister Isabella was reportedly killed driving for Lyft in 2021.

App corporations are putting workers at enormous risk on a daily basis, and too often leaving them without adequate protection or compensation. The worker deaths detailed in this report represent the worst possible outcome from dangerous app work (in other words, the extreme). Yet, reports indicate that incidents of carjacking and bike theft, verbal abuse, physical harassment and assault, and sexual harassment of workers are commonplace and, in some cases, growing. Unsurprisingly, many gig workers report feeling unsafe at work.

“These are not one-off incidents. This is a pattern. It makes clear the gig corporations’ real business model: exploiting and abusing working people, mostly Black and brown people. And the fate of the people whose work makes the corporations’ money seems to be of no concern to the C-suite, the board, or their Wall Street investors,” said Lauren Jacobs, Executive Director of PowerSwitch Action.

In response to this report, workers are demanding:

  • Compensation: Workers are demanding policymakers force corporations to ensure that injured or murdered workers and families receive workers’ compensation to make them whole. Policymakers should also push app corporations to compensate all impacted workers and families retroactively.
  • No forced arbitration: Workers are demanding policymakers prevent corporations from requiring workers to sign arbitration clauses and ensure that platform workers have the right to access the full protection of our court system.
  • Transparency: Workers are demanding policy makers force corporations to publicly report data about injuries and deaths on the job each year.
  • A union: Workers deserve the right to organize for an independent collective voice because we know that unions can keep workers safe.

“We talk with gig workers every day who have been assaulted, battered, and harassed. While the companies publicly tout their commitments to safety, workers quickly discover an alternative reality. Simply stated, gig workers and their families are left to fend for themselves,” said Bryant Greening, co-founder of Legal Rideshare, LLC.

ADDENDUM: 

Workers in five cities across the country are taking coordinated action in today’s National Day of Action: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and San Diego. App workers will take coordinated action to demand safety, transparency, compensation and a union. Action details below:

Boston

  • WHAT: Monument building in honor of workers who have be killed while working for app platform corporations
  • WHEN: 12pm ET, Wednesday, April 6
  • WHERE: 4 S Market Building Boston, MA

    CONTACT: Wes McEnany, 617-620-2831, wes@noprop22ma.com

Chicago

  • WHAT: Vigil to honor workers killed while working on app platforms
  • WHEN: 12pm CT, Wednesday, April 6
  • WHERE: 121 N LaSalle Chicago, IL
  • CONTACT: Lori Simmons, 217-721-7527, loriann@thepeopleslobbyusa.org

San Francisco

  • WHAT: Motor caravan to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s home. Workers will hold a vigil for 50 killed workers and build a memorial in front of Khosrowshahi’s home.
  • WHEN: 11am PT, Wednesday, April 6
  • WHERE: 3090 Pacific Ave. San Francisco, CA
  • CONTACT: William Fitzgerald, 650-772-1236, william@theworkeragency.com

Los Angeles

  • WHAT: Motor caravan, rally, and drivers speaking and sharing personal stories about facing violence, harassment, or abuse on the job.
  • WHEN: 10am PT, Wednesday, April 6
  • WHERE: Uber’s Greenlight Hub at 2417 Beverly Blvd Los Angeles, CA
  • CONTACT: Tim Sandoval, 213-218-5855, Tim.Sandoval@seiu721.org

San Diego

WHAT: Driver speak out, motor caravan and rally to Uber Hub.

WHEN: 12:45pm PT, Wednesday, April 6

WHERE: Uber’s Greenlight Hub at 8975 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA

CONTACT: Nicole Moore, 323-309-1046, nicole@drivers-united.org


Gig Workers Rising is a campaign of Working Partnerships USA that supports app-based workers who are organizing to win better wages, working conditions, and respect on the job.

PowerSwitch Action is a national network of 20 local organizations building people’s power and institutions to realize our collective freedom and liberation. Our affiliates forge strategic alignments amongst labor, neighborhood, housing, racial justice, faith, ethnic-based, and environmental organizations in cities and towns across the country. We develop innovative and effective policy and campaign against exploitative corporations to shape a vibrant multi-racial feminist economy and democracy.

LegalRideshare LLC is the first law firm in the United States to focus solely on representing individuals injured in rideshare and other gig platforms. The law firm, which represents workers, customers and victims, has secured millions of dollars for injured clients. LegalRideshare LLC attorney and co-founder Bryant Greening is an acclaimed activist for gig workers’ rights, having been instrumental in securing better and safer working conditions for drivers nationwide. LegalRideshare LLC’s work has been featured in such outlets as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, ABC, CBS, CNN, and others. 

Chicago Gig Alliance is a project of the People’s Lobby started in 2019 with the goal of organizing workers in the gig economy to win better pay, worker protections and treatment from companies like Uber and Lyft. 

The People’s Lobby is a membership-driven organization of people across the Chicago region that work together to build widespread support for public policies and candidates – including people from our communities – that put racial and gender justice and the needs of people and the planet before the interests of big corporations and the very rich.

Massachusetts Is Not For Sale is a grassroots alliance of workers, consumers, advocates, labor unions, civil rights organizations, and other public interest groups, who have come together to oppose a campaign by Uber, Lyft and other Big Tech companies to undermine deserved rights and benefits of workers, consumers and taxpayers under Massachusetts law.

Mobile Workers Alliance is part of a coalition of over 24,000 drivers statewide who are responsible for the billions that companies like Uber, Lyft, and their investors pocket every year. We’re uniting to win our union and a better life for ourselves and our loved ones. 

Rideshare Drivers United is a democratic, driver-led organization of 20,000 app-based drivers in California.

We Drive Progress is a movement of app-based workers behind the wheel of every rideshare trip across Northern California. We are part of a coalition of over 24,000 drivers statewide who are responsible for the billions that companies like Uber, Lyft, and their investors pocket every year. We’re uniting to win our union and a better life for ourselves and our loved ones.

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