On Sunday afternoon in August 2021, Lyft driver Isabel Lewis was shot dead by a passenger she had just picked up and left dead when a man fled as a result of a fatal car theft.
At the time, Lyft issued a press release saying “the incident was heartbreaking,” but Alice Lewis, Isabella’s sister, said her family had never received any direct contact from the company or financial compensation.
Instead, a few days after the murder, Elevator sent an insurance agent to Isabella’s abandoned car, soaked in bullets, before the family was able to pick up the remaining items, Alyssa said.
“There’s nothing that could bring my sister back, but it would mean a lot to just get Elevator to admit she died while working for them,” Alice said.
Isabella was one of at least 50 Americans who have died at work since 2017, according to a new study by the propaganda organization Gig Workers Rising. The group found that dozens of employees of companies such as Lyft, Uber and Postmates were fatally assaulted at work – including six in the first two months of 2022. The report says companies are not doing enough to mitigate the “urgent security crisis”. ”, Or to help the families of the victims after the attacks.
“It’s a systematic and disgusting practice when these corporations – who aren’t doing enough to protect their employees – are trying to protect their profits by shifting the risks onto them,” said Cherry Murphy, co-author of the report.
The victims were identified through publicly available resources, including informational messages, police documents, legal documents and the GoFundMe fundraising campaign, the organization said. Most concert companies do not publish data on the number of deaths, which means that these figures are likely to be “much higher” than what was stated in the report.
The study found that of the more than 50 workers killed in production, 63% were colored, although they make up less than 39% of the total U.S. workforce. Although most concert economics firms do not publish figures on the diversity of their workforce, independent surveys show that more than 78% of concert workers are people of color.
Other studies echo these findings: A recent report by the Pew Research Center found that colored workers are more likely than whites to say they at least sometimes felt dangerous or sexually harassed at work.
Murphy herself traveled to Lyft and made more than 12,000 trips before being disappointed by the lack of support from the company and financial instability. She said that in most cases, families of workers do not receive compensation for deaths that occur while working on programs.
So it was with Alice, who said the grief she felt over her sister’s death was exacerbated by Elevator’s response.
“To have someone work for your company to give her life while working, and her family can’t even be patted on the back, or any personal treatment,” Alyssa said. “It creates a feeling that it didn’t matter to them.”
Lyft spokeswoman Gabriela Kandarka-Quesada said the company is “committed to doing everything possible to help protect drivers from crime” and has invested in security technology, policy and partnership.
“From day one, we included safety in every part of the Lyft experience,” she said. Lyft works with the security company ADT, which allows drivers to contact professionals when they feel in danger. Lyft also actively tracks trips and appeals to drivers if it notices violations to link them to emergency services.
Kandarka-Quesada said Lyft was trying to contact Isabella Lewis’ family the day she learned of the incident to offer support. “Unfortunately, we were unable to contact them,” she said.
But Vina Dubal, a professor of labor law at the University of California at Hastings, said responses like the one the Lewis family received are endemic to the business model of concert economics companies that have struggled for years to classify workers as independent contractors, not employees. is entitled to compensation.
“These companies do not follow the principles of best practice because they will look like a real employer,” she said.
Dubal noted that while traditional driving jobs, such as driving a taxi, have always been risky, such dangers have been exacerbated by algorithms and expectations of driving applications.
“These platforms are designed to punish drivers for not picking up passengers,” she said. “It means you’re constantly worried about ratings and you’re encouraged not to trust your feelings when it tells you to finish or cancel a trip.”
Concert firms have in the past recognized the problem of violent attacks on their employees. Uber moved to ensure the safety of drivers in 2016 after 16 drivers were killed in Brazil.
But workers and officials have urged companies to do more. Gig Workers Rising has set out a number of demands, including a call for compensation to workers for injuries and deaths occurring at work, and the right of workers to unite in a union.
The group called for an end to forced arbitration, which requires workers to resolve these issues out of court and from public scrutiny. Such demands have grown in popularity as politicians increasingly take on the responsibilities of economic firms.
He also called on companies to increase transparency regarding the number of injuries and deaths each year.
Kandarka-Quesada, a Lyft spokesman, said the company had published data in its annual public safety report, which includes data on deaths occurring on the platform.
Uber, which owns Postmates, released a similar report but did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Every employee deserves to feel safe in their workplace,” said Congresswoman Ayana Presley of Massachusetts. “We must support workers and demand that these corporations take responsibility and pay a living wage, provide good benefits and, importantly, guarantee protection in the workplace that effectively and fairly protects workers from violence.”
In response to the publication of the study on Wednesday, workers in five U.S. cities are holding a national day of action for those who have lost their jobs, including sending a van to the home of Uber CEO Dari Khosravshahi in San Francisco.
“The lack of concern for these workers is a direct result of a business model designed to give as much power as possible to executives,” Murphy said. “No one should be killed when they show up for work.”