Lyft to Issue Partitions to Some Drivers; Company Sued Along With Uber in Massachusetts

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

You may not have noticed this, but there’s a lot of people wearing masks right now. These individuals aren’t working with drywall or sanding anything, either. You can spot them shopping, walking, or crowded around these new outdoor drinking areas located downtown that force them to huddle together while you attempt to squeeze by — coughing politely to make your intentions known.

After repeatedly Googling “What’s Going On Outside?” it was eventually revealed to your author by a helpful neighbor that there’s some kind of mystery illness nobody knows anything about. They continued explaining, but I had already stopped listening. This new information had me shocked to the core.

All I could think about was how this was going to impact Lyft drivers.

Surely the company has some kind of plan to protect its workforce and make sure they’re not riddled with blood-borne parasites or whatever. Well, we seem to be in luck. On Friday, Lyft said it will distribute around 60,000 vehicle partitions to its busiest drivers as way to protect against the coronavirus while selling customized protective shields to other drivers through the remainder of the summer.

It’s good to see a company acting so quickly to offer aid to its employees.

Had the virus manifested months earlier, this action would make the brand look downright despicable — especially since it will be the one selling the partitions. It should also be clarified that Lyft doesn’t technically classify drivers as employees; despite having no ability of their own to determine rates, Lyft officially considers them independent contractors.

Massachusetts is actually suing the company (along with Uber) over the issue right now.

“For years Uber and Lyft have built their billion-dollar businesses on a model that exploits drivers,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a message announcing the lawsuit on social media. “Uber and Lyft set the rates. They alone set the rules. Drivers are employees.”

Healey has concluded that the ride-hailing firms are technically in violation of Massachusetts law, and have been allowed to take advantage of drivers by mislabeling them. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi rebuffed this by stating drivers are effectively running a self-made business and enjoy setting their own hours. But there are problems with these assertions. They’re not really running their own business if they’re not setting the price points — and there’s nothing stopping Uber/Lyft from continuing to let drivers set their own hours as employees.

Getting back to the partitions, Reuters reports that Lyft plans to sell them for roughly $50 at production cost and without a markup. Doing some browsing, this seems to be a typical price. However, most of the ones we’ve seen have large gaps to allow air to circulate around the cabin. Might just be better to lower the windows and hope nobody’s sick.

From Reuters:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued coronavirus guidelines in April to professional drivers and recommended the installation of a partition between a driver and passengers.

As of March 2019, Lyft had nearly 2 million drivers in the United States and Canada, where it operates. But regulators and analysts estimate the number of active drivers has dropped significantly during the pandemic, when ridership plummeted because of sweeping stay-at-home orders.

[Image: Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • 6250Claimer 6250Claimer on Jul 18, 2020

    I've been driving 47 years now, owned about 30 cars, and still haven't owned a single automatic. I've even owned cars that were very unusual to be found with a manual, but either ordered them that way or just sought them out. Yeah, it's now ancient technology, and many modern automatics are "better" transmissions by every measurable metric. I enjoy driving auto's briefly when they're not my car, just because it's a different experience - but it also serves to remind me that it's not the experience I want in my own cars. I just prefer to row my own. The 2 cars I own now are probably my last, so I'll just row off into the sunset eventually. I'll never begrudge anyone's choice of an automatic, and I understand why sticks are disappearing. But I'll "stick" to mine, thankyouverymuch.

  • Old_WRX Old_WRX on Jul 18, 2020

    @Arthur Dailey, "No truth is created by facts and evidence. In many instances this requires the use of scientifi and statistical analysis." And, the best way for the layman to get a true picture of something of this ilk is to read many opinions of people with credentials. If the picture you are getting is too monolithic, then you haven't dug deep enough. In a situation as nebulous as this there will be different opinions coming from different experts. Which there are. News outlets such as CNN, and, yes, the CDC should always be taken with a grain of salt (as should all sources of news). There are many other opinions and studies out there from experts in the field. They may not be reported in the MSM, but the highly politicized nature of the whole CV thing pretty much guarantees that. As an example: I remember reading on the weather channel that all scientists were in agreement about "global warming." (The buzz phrase has mysteriously been changed to "climate change.") Which immediately threw up a red flag. The odds of all scientists agreeing on something like that is zero. Which leads one to ask: Why are they making such a claim? And, certainly does not help their credibility.

    • See 4 previous
    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Jul 21, 2020

      @ToolGuy - I've pondered various approaches put forth by yourself and others. In the case of COVID-19, the approach used successfully so far has been the one used in my home province of B.C. That is by your definition "conventional/accepted wisdom". It isn't reflexive. I've been a healthcare professional the bulk of my entire life. I question approaches like any good professional does. In this case, I'm good with the current approach used in B.C. The USA's approach on the other hand has been poorly managed, coordinated and implemented. It has been severely damaged by politicians.

  • Bd2 If they let me and the boyz roll around naked in their dealership I'll buy a Chinese car.
  • THX1136 I would not 'knowingly' purchase a Chinese built or brand. I am somewhat skeptical of actual build quality. What I've seen in other Chinese made products show them to be of low quality/poor longevity. They are quite good at 'copying' a design/product, but often they appear to take shortcuts by using less reliable materials and/or parts. And , yes, I know that is not exclusive to Chinese products. When I was younger 'made in Japan' was synonymous with poor quality (check John Entwistle's tune 'Made in Japan' out for a smile). This is not true today as much of Japan's output is considered very favorably and, in some product types, to be of superior quality. I tend to equate the same notion today for things 'made in China'.
  • Mike Beranek No, but I'm for a world where everyone, everywhere buys cars (and everything else) that are sourced and assembled regionally. Shipping big heavy things all over the planet is not a solution.
  • Jeffrey No not for me at this time
  • El scotto Hmm, my VPN and security options have 12-month subscriptions. Car dealers are not accountable to anyone except the owner. Of course, the dealer principles are running around going "state of the art security!", "We need dedicated IT people!" For the next 12 months. The hackers can wait.