At least 50 gig drivers killed on the job, including one Arizona woman

Luna Ruth

TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Back in January 2019, Kristina Howato was pregnant with her third child and driving for Lyft to make some extra cash. “We were hoping she was going to have the baby that day,” said her sister Lejeune Howato. Instead, that day ended in tragedy. Kristina Howato picked up a passenger, Fabian Durazo, who police say repeatedly stabbed her with a knife in Tempe. She and her unborn baby died at the hospital. Her two young sons were left without a mom.

“She put them to bed and told them she would be back. She never came back,” said Lejeune Howato.

Less than a week later an Uber driver’s throat was slashed after he picked up a passenger at a Goodyear restaurant. The victim, who survived the attack, told investigators “he felt something run along his neck or throat area,” according to the police report. “The victim then felt as if a warm liquid was running down his neck and realized his throat had just been slit.”

A few days after that, an Uber Eats driver was attacked and carjacked in the parking lot of a Phoenix IHOP. “What this driver has gone through is disturbing,” Uber said in a statement released at the time.

Now, the advocacy group Gig Workers Rising is bringing awareness to the dangers and violence drivers face on the job. According to a new report, at least 50 gig drivers have been killed since 2017, and the group said more than 60 percent were people of color. It claims gig companies like Lyft, Uber and DoorDash are not doing enough to protect drivers or help victims’ families in the wake of tragedy. Gig workers are often considered independent contractors and don’t get as much support as employees if something goes wrong.

“You are an independent contractor, and you are disavowing any right to worker’s compensation. Whether that is fair or not, that is the language in the contract that folks are signing,” said employment attorney Joshua Black.

Black said if a gig worker is killed on the job, their families aren’t entitled to compensation and might not have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. “There are likely arbitration clauses that a lot of folks in these jobs are coming up against,” said Black.

Lyft and DoorDash sent Arizona’s Family statements saying the companies take safety very seriously and are committed to doing everything to help protect drivers from crime. They said both apps have safety features that allow drivers discreetly connect with the security company ADT if they need help. Lyft added that if there is a safety incident, it is the company’s policy to immediately reach out to the driver or their family to offer support. It can include financial assistance, according to a spokesperson.

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