Delivery App Companies Are Spending Millions to Lobby Against a Bill That Would Allow Their Workers to Unionize

The PRO Act has already passed the House and is supported by President Biden.

Uber Eats has never turned a profit, and DoorDash hasn't fared particularly better: Its IPO filing last year showed just one quarterly profit (buoyed by the pandemic) before returning to a loss, according to the Wall Street Journal. In the venture capital world, this business model is common: spending money to make money. But it also demonstrates just how much money these billion-dollar companies have to burn—and lobbying is part of that budget.

The self-described "adversarial journalism" site The Intercept recently dug into the topic of gig economy lobbying, finding that after the big four of Uber, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates spent a reported state-record $200 million pushing for Prop 22 in California, the industry has continued spending to sway federal lawmakers. "Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft and delivery apps DoorDash and Instacart spent at least $1,190,000 on 32 lobbyists to persuade members of Congress on the PRO Act and other related issues in 2021 alone, according to newly released lobbying disclosures," the site writes.

Man Delivering Takeaway Food At The Front Door
Oscar Wong/Getty Images

Standing for the "Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021," the bill—which already passed in the House in March and has been openly supported by President Biden—seeks, among other things, to increase the number of workers covered by fair labor standards, ease restrictions surrounding strikes and collective bargaining, and prevent employers from discouraging or taking retribution against employees who engage in these activities.

The Intercept points out how, in a filing to the SEC, Uber listed the prospect of drivers being classified as employees as an operational risk. "Any such reclassification would require us to fundamentally change our business model, and consequently have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial position and cash flows," Uber wrote.

This stance seems to explain why—according to The Intercept—Uber alone spent $540,000 in the first quarter of this year lobbying to maintain the status quo. And despite Biden's calls on Congress to pass the PRO Act and "send it to my desk," with an evenly split 50-50 Senate, it's not clear whether the legislation will ever make it there.

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