Uber says it is considering paying drivers who have been quarantined or diagnosed with coronavirus, though it doesn't have specific plans as of yet. Their statement comes in response to a concerned senator's letter requesting that the company do more to support its workers: 'I have concerns it does not address some broader challenges that workers could face,' Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) wrote in his letter to Uber leadership. Gig workers for food delivery and ride-hailing apps, whose on-demand jobs don't provide insurance or other benefits, are bracing for the spread of coronavirus. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Uber is considering paying its drivers who have been quarantined for diagnosed with COVID-19, the coronavirus disease, although it has not yet pinned down how they would be paid. In a statement, the company says that its "global team" tasked with handling its response to the outbreak is "exploring compensation for drivers who have been quarantined or diagnosed with coronavirus, whether independently, through a fund, or in partnership with peer companies." Business Insider has previously spoken with drivers and delivery workers for Uber, who told reporters Aaron Holmes and Mary Meisenzahl that their constant contact with dozens of strangers, and a lack of of health insurance and benefits, had rendered them extremely anxious about how the outbreak of coronavirus would impact them. The statement comes largely in response to a letter from a concerned Virginia Senator Mark Warner, who asked that the company consider taking steps to better protect its gig workers as the coronavirus outbreak spreads across the US. In a letter addressed to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Warner wrote that Uber's current steps to support its drivers — who, as contractors, don't enjoy a regular salary or benefits from the company — was lacking in addressing issues beyond hygiene and disease containment. "While this is prudent and good advice, I have concerns it does not address some broader challenges that workers could face," Warner said, and went on to recommend measures to support drivers through any financial hardships that they face during this time. "I strongly urge that you attempt to address the potential financial hardship for your workers if they are sick or have to self-quarantine during this time," Warner wrote. As of Friday, the coronavirus has spread to at least 93 other countries. More than 360 deaths have been reported outside mainland China, including 14 in the US. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Jeff Bezos reportedly just spent $165 million on a Beverly Hills estate — here are all the ways the world's richest man makes and spends his money
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Two workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Middletown, Delaware, have come down with COVID-19, the...Two workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Middletown, Delaware, have come down with COVID-19, the company told Business Insider. The confirmation follows an internal leak to the press. "We are supporting the individuals, who are recovering," a company spokesperson said. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. At least two workers at an Amazon warehouse in Delaware have been infected by the novel coronavirus, Business Insider confirmed Tuesday, following a tip from an employee there. Amazon informed workers at its facility in Middletown, Delaware, on April 6 that a person on-site March 22 was subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19. Another confirmed case of the disease was discovered on April 7. "We are supporting the individuals, who are recovering," company spokesperson Timothy Carter told Business Insider. "We are following guidelines from health officials and medical experts, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site." Dozens of Amazon facilities have now reported cases of COVID-19, but the online retailer has declined repeated requests to furnish a complete list of facilities where cases have been reported. The New York Times reported that at least 50 warehouses have seen cases. On Monday, the company confirmed cases at two separate facilities outside Cleveland, Ohio, after an employee reached out to Business Insider. Last week, Amazon confirmed another case at a warehouse in Indiana now under internal investigation, Amazon said, after Business Insider reported that some managers appeared to be failing to adhere to guidelines on social distancing. The retailer also told Business Insider about an infected worker at a fulfillment center outside Washington, DC, following another tip from an employee who expressed concern for their safety. Business Insider's Hayley Peterson previously reported that Amazon plans to hire 100,000 additional workers to meet delivery demand during the coronavirus pandemic. Many around the world and 97% of Americans are under stay-at-home orders, and The Times reported that "orders for Amazon groceries, for example, have been as much as 50 times higher than normal, according to a person with direct knowledge of the business." The company is hiring warehouse employees, delivery drivers, and shoppers. Thousands of employees, who have been deemed essential and are continuing to work while many people stay home, are on the frontlines and working to organize for better pay and benefits, The Times reported. Have a news tip? Email this reporter: email@example.comJoin the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Camel milk can cost $30 a litre. Why is it so expensive?
'MAYDAY': The largest organization of independent truck drivers is demanding that Trump provide masks, testing, and quarantine zones for truckers
America's largest organization of independent truck drivers is demanding that President Donald Trump act quickly to...America's largest organization of independent truck drivers is demanding that President Donald Trump act quickly to protect drivers. There are nearly two million truck drivers in the US, and they have been deemed as "essential" workers while much of the nation has been told to stay home. Truckers are at an increased risk for contracting the coronavirus. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. In a letter that begins "HELP – MAYDAY – 9-1-1," America's largest organization of independent truck drivers is demanding that President Donald Trump act quickly to protect drivers. Todd Spencer, the president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, wrote in a letter dated April 3 that truck drivers are key to the nation's supply chain and have been deemed "essential" workers, but they're at more risk than ever as the coronavirus sweeps across the US. "Right now, professional drivers are busting their butts to care for the nation," he wrote in the letter to Trump. "Their hard work and personal sacrifice should not include their health or even their lives if at all possible or preventable." There are nearly two million truck drivers in the US, and they move around 71% of the nation's freight by weight. If truck drivers got sick en masse, that would put at risk Americans' abilities to buy groceries, go to the ATM, get gas, and, of course, get online orders delivered. Spencer argued that this critical service could be at risk. "Once word spreads that drivers are testing positive, we could very well see a tremendous reduction in drivers willing to risk everything for the rest of us," he wrote. Here are the three safeguards Spencer wrote that Trump needs to make available to truck drivers immediately: Access to personal protective equipment, like masks Testing on truck routes that show results within hours A place for truck drivers to quarantine or seek treatment if they test positive for the coronavirus The massive trucking companies that employ drivers have not made clear if they have paid time off for truck drivers, or what infrastructure they have for drivers who have the coronavirus. Business Insider contacted 10 of the largest public trucking companies in the US, and few revealed policies for what happens if a truck driver gets sick. One large public trucking company is even asking truck drivers with symptoms of the coronavirus to self-quarantine in their trucks for several days, according to emails sent to Business Insider. As Americans buy more and more cleaning goods and food, and hospitals require quick shipments of key medical supplies, the country's trucking network is getting pushed to the limit to ensure those items are delivered on time, experts say. During the week of March 22, for instance, trucking shipments to grocery stores jumped by 81% compared to the same week last year, and by 16% from just the week before, according to freight data company project44. Meanwhile, truck drivers are at a greater risk than other Americans to get the coronavirus and to experience complications from it. Truck drivers are twice as likely as the average working American to not have health insurance, according to a 2014 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Paid sick leave is also not a common benefit across many trucking jobs. More than half of truckers smoke cigarettes, according to the CDC. Epidemiologist Saskia Popescu, who practices at the Honor Health medical group in Arizona, previously told Business Insider that those with a history of smoking may be more vulnerable to coronavirus. Meanwhile, the American Diabetes Association has warned that people with diabetes should expect more complications with coronavirus should they contract it. Truckers are twice as likely as the general population to have diabetes, according to the CDC. Do you work in the trucking industry? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about how coronavirus is affecting America's 1.8 million truck drivers In an unprecedented move, the Trump administration suspended an 82-year-old road safety law for some truck drivers, showing how much coronavirus is pressuring retailers and hospitals to maintain cleaning and medical supplies America's largest trucking companies won't reveal how — or if — they'll get their drivers home if they get coronavirus, and truckers are terrified Leaked memo reveals trucking giant mistakenly distributed faulty sanitation wipes to its 10,000-plus drivers Walmart leadership is urging its 9,000 'Elite Fleet' truck drivers to buy cleaning supplies with their company cards amid coronavirus fears After weeks of silence amid the coronavirus outbreak, Amazon tells its giant network of truck drivers to stay home if feeling sickJoin the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: We tested a machine that brews beer at the push of a button
Uber promised to pay drivers who couldn't work because of the coronavirus. But drivers say Uber has been closing their accounts after they seek sick pay, and then ignoring or rejecting their claims. (UBER)
Uber promised financial assistance to drivers forced off the road by the coronavirus, but even some...Uber promised financial assistance to drivers forced off the road by the coronavirus, but even some who appear to meet its strict eligibility criteria have been unable to get the company to pay them. Multiple drivers, all of whom have underlying health conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the virus, told Business Insider that Uber had rejected or ignored their requests for sick pay after shutting down their accounts, despite doctor's notes. While Uber immediately blocked them from driving, effectively cutting off their income, drivers say the company's response has left them frustrated and out of a paycheck at a time when they need it most. "We remain committed to working with drivers and delivery people around the world to help support them. We will continue to advocate for independent workers," Uber said in a statement to Business Insider. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Zachary Frenette has driven for Uber in Phoenix, Arizona, for the past two years, earning "Diamond" status and a 4.96 average rating during that time, while completing more than 4,300 trips in the past year alone. He's also HIV positive, meaning he has a weakened immune system that puts him at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms or dying from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. On March 18, two of his passengers, both coughing and sneezing, said they had just left a relative's house who had tested positive for the virus. So, Frenette immediately stopped accepting rides and went to his doctor, who wrote him a letter telling him to self quarantine to "limit exposure and potential spread" of the virus. He then submitted that letter to Uber, which deactivated his driver account in an apparent effort to limit his contact with other passengers. "My livelihood was in immediate risk," Frenette said. Frenette, who relies mainly on Uber for his income, knew that Uber had a program to pay drivers who couldn't work because of risk of spreading the coronavirus. And with a doctor's note highlighting his possible exposure, he assumed the company would honor its policy — after all, they shut off his account as part of it. But Frenette and multiple other Uber drivers told Business Insider that the company hasn't given them the pay promised despite their heightened exposure or risk, leaving them without pay and unable to work. Some also raised concerns that shutting down accounts but not compensating drivers who follow the agreement risks disincentivizing drivers from self-quarantining in the middle of a pandemic. Statewide lockdowns across more than half of the US have forced thousands of drivers like Frenette off the roads, both to protect their own health as well as others' — while those still driving have struggled to make any money, with rides dropping by as much as 94% in the US. Earlier in March, in recognition of the precarious situation drivers have found themselves, Uber announced its intention to support them through a coronavirus financial assistance policy. Effectively a form of sick pay, the program promises to compensate drivers for up to 14 days, with the daily amount varying based on how much they had earned on the platform over the past six months. But the initial policy was criticized for only applying to drivers who had confirmed cases of COVID-19 or were placed in quarantine by public health officials. Given the extremely limited availability of testing, Uber's policy made it nearly impossible for many drivers to prove they had or were at risk of spreading the disease, which can be highly contagious even if a person isn't showing symptoms. After a backlash, Uber expanded the program to include drivers "personally asked by a public health authority or licensed medical provider to self-isolate due to your risk of spreading COVID-19" as well as drivers whose accounts are "restricted by Uber as a result of information provided by a public health authority that you have been diagnosed or have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19," according to its website. Uber drivers told Business Insider that even the new criteria was nearly impossible to meet. Some, like Frenette, said the company still wouldn't pay up even with a doctor's note detailing their risk of spreading COVID-19. The company said in a statement that it had "been providing payments to eligible drivers and delivery people," but did not elaborate how many drivers were eligible, or why some drivers' claims were not answered, except to direct Business Insider to its policy. "It seems like this is largely a PR campaign ... to make it seem to the public like they're doing something something for their extremely vulnerable drivers" said Veena Dubal, a professor of employment and labor law at the University of California, Hastings who focuses specifically on the gig economy. A high bar Frenette believed he met the new criteria — risk of spreading the disease, account deactivated — yet Uber denied his claim, sending him a generic replies without explaining why he wasn't eligible. After he called customer support "20 to 30 times," Frenette got a response from Uber saying his documentation needed to cite his "risk of spreading COVID-19 as the reason" for his quarantine. So, Frenette got his doctor to write a second note specifically mentioning that his March 18 ride meant he was at risk of spreading coronavirus as well as reiterating the risk to his health due to his weakened immune system, still to no avail. Eli Martin, a driver in Chicago who has cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the lungs (chronic lung diseases have been shown to put people at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19), told Business Insider that he has had similar difficulties clearing the bar set by Uber, despite submitting a doctor's note instructing him to quarantine and get tested for coronavirus due to reporting a dry cough, sore throat, fatigue, and body aches — the symptoms most commonly seen in patients with the virus. Martin could not get tested because of limited availability of kits. Uber has specifically said that "other health conditions" do not qualify someone for compensation, leaving its most vulnerable drivers in the lurch. That's prompted backlash from people like Nicole Knesek, a Sacramento-based driver who received a kidney transplant last year that requires her to take anti-rejection drugs, leaving her immune system suppressed. "They just don't think about anyone but themselves," said Knesek, who told Business Insider her claim was rejected as well amid confusing and seemingly shifting criteria. "They changed it to work for them," she said. Frenette echoed her critique about Uber's policy not covering those most at risk from the virus. "Preemptively, that should have already been introduced." But Frenette and Martin both submitted doctor's notes that, in addition to mentioning their preexisting health conditions, noted their possible exposure to the virus and potential to spread it as a result. "That's literally exactly what they're asking for, that's the exact wording," Martin said. While these drivers have spent weeks, going back and forth with Uber, sometimes waiting multiple days for a reply, the company managed to deactivate their accounts almost immediately. All three said Uber banned them from driving within a day of submitting doctor's notes, implying it had acknowledged they shouldn't be in contact with passengers — either to protect themselves or others. Under Uber's criteria, those deactivations should have entitled the drivers to financial assistance, but even though they're not able to earn income on the platform, the company still hasn't agreed to pay them under the policy. "The safety and well-being of drivers on the Uber app is always our priority," Uber said in a statement to Business Insider, adding that it has "a dedicated team working around the clock to support drivers and delivery people." 'They just don't take drivers' safety seriously' Regardless of the technicalities of Uber's coronavirus sick pay policy, the drivers expressed frustration more generally that the company isn't doing more to support them at a time when they need help the most — and when Uber has publicly stated its intention to do so. "Every time Uber comes out with something that sounds like it's going to help drivers, in my experience, it typically doesn't or is a colossal failure," Martin said, adding, "they just don't take driver's safety seriously." "Uber should be held strongly accountable for their actions if they're going to publicly portray themselves as generous, magnanimous, and caring, sharing part of this burden... and then turn around and completely dismiss, ignore and lie to the people they're vowing to help," Frenette said. Part of that advocacy has been in the form of lobbying Congress to include benefits for gig workers in its $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, which it ultimately did in the form of making them eligible for unemployment insurance for the first time. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, in a letter to lawmakers, also pushed for a third categorization of employee — somewhere in between full-time workers who enjoy benefits like healthcare and sick pay and independent contractors who don't — that could keep Uber from having to pay for those benefits. Critics criticized the move, however, accusing Uber of using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to ask taxpayers for a bailout. "It's so cruel, they're essentially taking advantage of a pandemic to try and create laws and regulations that specifically accommodate their illegal business model," Dubal said. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 62 new emoji and emoji variations were just finalized, including a bubble tea emoji and a transgender flag. Here's how everyday people submit their own emoji.