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Uber says new App-Based Drivers’ union is ‘bogus’

Above: Daniel Ajema, at the Teamsters building in Tukwila

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Rideshare drivers are forming their own union, but Uber claims the organization is “bogus.”

Over the weekend, hundreds of Uber drivers met to elect leaders for an App-Based Drivers’ Association. 500 drivers expressed interest in joining the union, the Seattle Times reports, in affiliation with a chapter of the highly aggressive Teamsters union.

Unionization efforts among a subset of Uber drivers aren’t new, particularly in Washington. Among the alleged reasons behind the new organization, chief complaints include the following claims:

  1. No liability insurance
  2. Flaws in the driver rating system
  3. Unfair driver bans “without cause”

In conversation with VentureBeat, an Uber spokesperson responded to these claims with an unusually blunt response: “If an Uber driver wants to make a change they can talk to us directly — they don’t need a bogus organization like this to do that.”

In response to the App-Based Drivers’ Association’s rating complaints, Uber claims it takes feedback from both drivers and riders seriously [Bold: VentureBeat]:

Feedback is a two-way street. At Uber, riders rate their experience and drivers do the same. Real-time feedback about drivers means Uber can correct for issues big and small – while ensuring that only the best drivers stay on the road. We take this feedback seriously – depending on the circumstances, rider feedback may lead to deactivating a partner from the system or serve as validation that the driver is providing great service. An Uber trip should be a good experience for drivers too – drivers shouldn’t have to deal with aggressive, violent, or disrespectful riders. If a rider exhibits disrespectful, threatening, or unsafe behavior, they, too, may no longer be able to use the service. You can learn more about our rating system here.

A key complaint among the union’s drivers is a lack of job security, a frustration that seemingly contradicts the very foundation of Uber’s system. An Uber spokesperson verified by phone that drivers are not employees — they’re independent contractors. This means that any driver who joins Uber runs the same risks that every small business owner faces. It is unclear if Uber should be more explicit on this point in its promotional enlisting materials.

Uber states that its drivers “understand that they are being connected to riders through the technology platform,” and that the company encourages driver feedback. Meanwhile, Uber is rapidly expanding in the U.S. and recently landed a major endorsement from Google. In addition, while Uber has consistently clashed with the traditional taxi and limousine industry, the firm today hired away a top official at the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

More information:

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8 comments
Paul Mohme
Paul Mohme

I'd love to hear exactly how independent contractors can unionize.

Rod Bauer
Rod Bauer

Note to Uber: You might want to read a little about labor history, and think before using a term like "bogus" to describe the concerns of people who are providing the service that brings in your revenue.

Mike Alexander
Mike Alexander

No matter how disruptive or innovative your idea, when labor gets involved, no ones immune from the threat of workers forming a union. The fact that Uber classifies its drivers as independent contractors is an interesting point tho- perhaps those that don't like the company's business practices will be forced out by the ones who are willing to work how Uber wants them to.