By Pamela Wolf, J.D. If Uber and Lyft drivers really are “independent contractors,” as the companies claim these “gig economy” workers are, they’re going to have to meet San Francisco’s business registration requirements. The Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector mailed notices to nearly 37,000 individuals identified as drivers for Transportation Network Companies (TNC) in San Francisco, telling them to take action within 30 days by either registering as a business, or declaring under penalty of perjury that they do not need to register because they are no longer in business, are not a TNC driver, are an employee of the TNC, or are already registered with the Office. TNC’s provide prearranged transportation services for compensation using an online-enabled application or platform to connect passengers with drivers using their personal vehicles. The battle over whether these gig economy drivers are “employees” or “independent” contractors, and whether they can collectively negotiate their terms and conditions of employment has been heating up on several fronts around the country. There is a growing list of wage suits against Uber and in Seattle, an ordinance passed in December 2015 gives organizing and collective bargaining rights to NTC drivers. Proposed legislation unveiled in California last month would ensure that independent workers, particularly those working in the gig economy, are not deprived of basic workplace rights to organize and collectively bargain just because they are not treated as “employees” by the companies who dispatch them for work. San Francisco’s business registration notice to NTC drivers follows nearly two years of enforcement work, including multiple requests for information and subpoenas to get sufficient data about business operations from TNC’s domiciled in San Francisco. “I take seriously my obligation to fairly implement San Francisco’s business registration requirements,” Treasurer José Cisneros said in an announcement. “I urge all the people receiving this notice, and all unregistered businesses operating in San Francisco to take prompt action to come into compliance immediately.”
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