Lyft sells PPE supplies to its drivers — and some are furious they’re not free

Lyft drivers are slamming the ridesharing company for selling personal protective equipment (PPE) to its drivers through an online store — saying masks and other safety supplies should be provided to them for free. 

“It’s such an unreasonable and overall ridiculous level of cynicism to sell your workers the protective gear that they need for the risks that you expose them to and profit from,” said California Lyft driver Edan Alva. “There’s nothing about it that resembles trying to protect their drivers.”

The Lyft Store sells items like reusable and disposable masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and more made by Mission Ready Solutions, Inc. The website says that there’s no markup prices on these items and that drivers pay wholesale prices (not including the shipping cost).

But drivers for the rideshare company called the move to sell products “outrageous” since they say they have seen little effort from Lyft to provide safety supplies during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Lyft announced a $6.5 million initiative for coronavirus support in April. The company said it had dedicated $2.5 million in cleaning supplies and face masks to drivers.

A Lyft spokesperson told Digital Trends that the company doesn’t profit off of the PPE that is available to purchase on its online store.

“All cleaning supplies and safety products are provided to drivers either for free or at cost,” the spokesperson said. “The Lyft Store is a resource to provide millions of drivers across the U.S. easy access to cleaning supplies and face masks that have consistently been difficult to find.”

The spokesperson added that Lyft has given out 150,000 sanitizing products and masks for free, and that they do not charge for sanitizing products or masks at their Lyft hub community stores.

But Alva told Digital Trends he has only been able to get one hand sanitizer from his local Lyft hub, and even then, he claimed he had to pay for it at the time. The other times he went back to get more supplies, he was told they had run out.

Instead, drivers have resorted to organizing their own PPE donation drives to distribute the much-needed supplies to drivers who need it. Alva’s group, Gig Workers Rising, held one of these drives, and other groups like We Drive Progress have done similar distribution drives as well.

California Lyft driver Alan Franklin said last month’s We Drive Progress drive supplied him with things like the gloves, hand sanitizer, masks, and disinfectant wipes he needs to do his job every day. That drive was donation-based, but Franklin said he has spent hundreds of dollars of his own money on supplies, rather than Lyft providing them. 

“The two things that are happening simultaneously is that there are a lot less rides because of COVID, and our expenses are subsequently up in providing this PPE for ourselves,” he told Digital Trends. 

While drivers think having to buy essential safety products from their own company is backward, it also may not be legal, at least in California.

Current regulations from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Healthrequire employers to implement effective measures to protect employees, including providing free PPE supplies. It requires employers to “provide employees with cloth face coverings or allow them to use their own and reimburse them for the cost.”

California regulators declared Lyft drivers as employees in a June ruling.

Both Franklin and Alva agree that the company is not doing enough to provide its drivers — who are considered essential workers — with the proper supplies to do their jobs safely.

“The biggest concern we have as drivers is we are exposed to this just to make a living every day,” Franklin said. 

[via: Digital Trends]

[Photo: Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash]

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