SF survey addresses gig workers’ concerns amid COVID-19 pandemic

With the novel coronavirus pandemic posing an ongoing threat to people’s health, especially the health of essential workers, San Francisco is conducting a survey to learn more about the issues gig workers are facing during this time. The results of this survey, which should be available within four to six weeks, will help shape local policy decisions.

The survey seeks to understand how COVID-19 has impacted the number of gig jobs available, pay and companies’ stances on health insurance and paid sick leave. It also asks what workers feel they most urgently need, whether it’s access to protective equipment or emergency funds, as well as if workers are likely to work while sick due to their financial situation.

Conducted by the city’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) and led by UC Santa Cruz professor Chris Benner, the study is targeting at least 500 gig workers who perform services for 12 of the most popular platforms: Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Caviar, Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub, Instacart, Shipt, Saucey, Amazon Flex and Drizly.

“This is a very critical workforce for a number a reasons,” Benner told TechCrunch. “They are particularly vulnerable and susceptible, especially early on with drivers taking people to and from the airport. But now as we’re potentially seeing a spike in the online ordering of groceries and food delivery, these people doing the deliveries are providing essential services during this time of having to shelter in home and are potentially vulnerable. And if they’re not being careful in handling food and groceries, they could potentially be spreading [COVID-19].”

This survey comes after Benner was tasked with leading a broader survey about gig workers in San Francisco. That survey kicked off last September but is currently on hold as Benner and his team focus more on the COVID-19 survey. Still, they are analyzing the 700 responses from that initial survey.

“What we know from other sources and what our survey will likely confirm is it’s a large immigrant workforce,” Benner said. “It’s a lot of people working on low wages and many hours and many people do this work full-time.”

Outside of this survey, the city has begun taking steps to advocate for this essential workforce. Yesterday, SF’s Board of Supervisors pushed for more gig worker protections, asking the SF Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, for example, to establish enforcement procedures in compliance with Assembly Bill 5. AB 5 is the new California law that outlines what types of workers can be legally classified as independent contractors.

This board of supervisor’s resolution, which Gig Workers Rising and We Drive Progress advocated for the board of supervisors to adopt, came after Gig Workers Rising urged California lawmakers to enforce AB 5. Earlier this month, Gig Workers Rising sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials asking them to step in and protect workers during this pandemic.

In the meantime, workers interested in filling out the survey can do so here.