The Spread Of Coronavirus Creates Additional Hurdles For Gig Economy Workers

Uber and Lyft stickers AP
In this Jan. 31, 2018, file photo, a Lyft logo is installed on a Lyft driver's car in Pittsburgh next to an Uber sticker. Despite concerns about the coronavirus, some rideshare drivers in the Chicago area say they are forced to work because they don't have paid sick leave or they simply can't afford to stop working. Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press
Uber and Lyft stickers AP
In this Jan. 31, 2018, file photo, a Lyft logo is installed on a Lyft driver's car in Pittsburgh next to an Uber sticker. Despite concerns about the coronavirus, some rideshare drivers in the Chicago area say they are forced to work because they don't have paid sick leave or they simply can't afford to stop working. Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press

The Spread Of Coronavirus Creates Additional Hurdles For Gig Economy Workers

Despite growing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, without paid sick leave, some gig economy workers say they are forced to keep working. They can’t afford to stop working, even if that means putting themselves at risk for infection.

Since they’re not employed full-time, gig economy workers often don’t have access to health insurance and paid sick leave. Rideshare drivers are a big part of the gig economy workforce. Lenny Sanchez has been driving for Uber and Lyft for five years. He said working sick has become part of the job.

“If you’re not feeling too hot, oh well, you have no choice. You’re going to go out to work, if you have to,” Sanchez said. “If a passenger jumps in and they don’t look too hot, oh well, it’s part of the gig. They’ll be out of the car in a few minutes.”

Sanchez said Uber and Lyft should do more for workers during this pandemic. If the companies don’t step up, he said, the government should.

On Friday, lawsuits were filed in California against Uber and Lyft, the Mercury News reported.

Plaintiffs in those lawsuits argue that the rideshare companies are endangering California residents during the coronavirus outbreak because they won’t offer drivers paid sick leave, as required by state law.

Another sector of the gig economy comes from people who work in the tourism industry. Last year, 59.5 million tourists visited Chicago. March is the start of the tourism season. But the cancellation of conferences, parades, music and sporting events over coronavirus concerns has diminished the number of visitors to the city and created a financial hardship for workers in the tourism industry.

Benjamin Archer has been a tour guide for six years. He said he’s worried about his ability to work.

“I can’t make money right now,” Archer said. “I don’t have a salary job. If I’m not giving tours, I’m not getting paid.”

He said the money he makes during spring and summer has to last him the entire year. Archer said he’s looking for other types of work.

María Ines Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.