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In a ruling that could remake the gig economy, the California Public Utilities Commission has found Uber and Lyft drivers are “presumed to be employees” under AB-5, the state’s new gig work law. Both companies criticized the ruling, saying it could hurt drivers’ wages and pointing to a ballot measure they support that would revoke the law. (Reuters)

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Talking point: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new scrutiny to the labor practices of gig-work companies, as many drivers face a steep drop in income and struggle without healthcare or paid time off, and are unable to claim unemployment insurance. The California regulator issued a formal reminder to Uber and Lyft last week that they had to provide workers’ compensation for their employees by July 1, and that under state law it could consider revoking the companies’ operating authority if they did not comply. Last month, city attorneys-general from Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego also sued over the companies’ alleged non-compliance with AB-5.

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The app-based food-delivery company, which operates in 10 cities across Canada, cited tough competition in a saturated market as a reason for leaving the country. “[Foodora] has unfortunately not been able to reach a strong leadership position, and has been unable to reach a level of profitability in Canada that’s sustainable enough to continue operations,” the firm said in a statement(The Logic)

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Talking point: While some meal-delivery firms have seen a drop in business during the pandemic as more people stay home and cook for themselves, the announcement comes two months after Foodora couriers in Toronto won an historic court case granting them the right to unionize. In the days before Foodora announced its Canadian retreat, lawyers for both parties were negotiating terms for tallying the union vote, cast in August 2019, but put on hold pending the ruling from the Ontario Labour Relations Board, according to a source close to the negotiations. The Logic reported in February of other efforts to unionize the firm’s couriers in Montreal. Foodora did not respond to The Logic’s request for comment as of publication time.

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“It is out of an abundance of caution, and with much disappointment, that we concluded that cancelling this year’s event is the right thing to do,” said Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech, in a statement. It is the latest big tech conference to be cancelled, after Collision and Shopify Unite, both of which were planned for Toronto, and Texas-based SXSW. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The tech community has been reeling from the impacts of the coronavirus, with the cancellation of 265 conferences and counting. Apple, which reported today that an employee in its European headquarters in Ireland tested positive for COVID-19, saw its stock dip Monday, though it was up over three per cent in Tuesday afternoon trading. Tech companies have been on the front lines of both preemptive and proactive responses: Amazon has created a US$5-million fund to support small businesses around its Seattle headquarters struggling with a dramatic slowdown since the company instructed its employees to work from home. It has also pledged US$1 million, along with Microsoft and others, to help those without health insurance or sick leave, people with limited English proficiency, communities of colour and health-care and gig-economy workers.

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The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has ruled that a fleet of Foodora couriers in Toronto are dependent, rather than independent, contractors, and therefore have the right to join a union. The group held a union vote in August 2019, but the votes have been sealed, pending the outcome of the OLRB case. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The board’s decision hinged largely on couriers having little autonomy: they cannot negotiate pay or contracts, for example, and Foodora controls what shifts they have access to and prevents them from sub-contracting work. The ruling is considered a landmark decision for app-based gig workers who have historically had few tools to negotiate their pay, working conditions and benefits. It gives Foodora couriers the green light to count their union votes; if the group has the support of at least 40 per cent of the Toronto workforce, it will form the second app-based workers’ union in North America, after Instacart shoppers in Chicago voted to unionize earlier this month.