U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh caused a stir — and a steep drop in gig-work companies’ stocks — when he said in an interview last spring that he thought gig workers should be classified as employees in many cases.
After meeting with Walsh, Uber Technologies Inc.
executives don’t believe new laws to enforce those beliefs will happen anytime soon, however.
Uber held its investor day Thursday, and an executive said that Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi met with Walsh and came away with the impression that the Department of Labor will not act on gig-worker classification in the near future. Jill Hazelbaker, Uber’s senior vice president of marketing and public affairs, said there “was a lot of concern” last year about the comment by Walsh, a former union leader who was expected to strengthen labor laws and regulate the gig economy. But she said “it hasn’t come to pass.”
Her remarks on stage in front of analysts and investors were a response to an analyst’s request for an update on the company’s regulatory issues. In the U.S. and beyond, Uber is fighting to keep millions of workers on its on-demand platform from being classified as employees.
“Dara has met with him and had a constructive conversation,” Hazelbaker said. “We don’t see that on their agenda soon.” She added that the White House “has a lot of other things on their plate other than the gig economy.”
The Labor Department said Thursday “we have no comment at this time,” and Uber did not return a request for additional comment.
Hazelbaker, who said in her presentation that Uber is the “largest source of work in the world” with 31 million “earners” on its platform from 2016 to 2021, also addressed worker-related developments in specific places around the nation and world. She touted the company’s agreements with labor in the U.K., where last year the company agreed to recognize the GMB for purposes of collective bargaining with workers, and in Canada, where last month Uber came to an agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers Canada to represent workers without unionizing them.
She also said Uber wins “at the ballot, like we did in California, like we’ll do in Massachusetts.”
In 2020, California voters passed Proposition 22, a ballot measure backed by Uber and other gig companies that exempts them from a state law that would’ve required them to classify their workers as employees. The gig companies have now proposed a similar initiative in Massachusetts, where the issue may go before voters in November.
Hazelbaker did not mention that a judge struck down Prop. 22 last year, and that Uber is now appealing that decision.
Uber stock did not respond favorably to the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report Wednesday afternoon and the Thursday morning investor presentation, during which executives said they expect to be cash-flow positive by the fourth quarter of 2022 and produce adjusted Ebitda of $5 billion in 2024. Shares fell more than 6% in Thursday’s trading session, continuing a decline that is nearing 40% in the past 12 months, a period in which the S&P 500
has gained 19%.