• Why the Uber drivers want to Unionize – The reasons the drivers list for their desire to unionize are very similar to most workers who join unions; exploitive practices by employers, including unfair pay, arbitrary firing policies, and in the case of Uber drivers claims of racial discrimination.
Another major concern of Uber drivers everywhere is liability insurance. Currently, Uber requires the drivers to bear the responsibility and expense) of liability insurance. This is a big deal financially since regular personal liability does not cover a driver or vehicle being used in a rid-for-hire situation. The cost for commercial liability insurance is typically 3-4 times as much as personal liability insurance, forcing some drivers to choose between quitting Uber or driving around under insured or even not insured at all.
The driver rating system has also come under fire. Uber drivers get rated by their passengers, which is normally not a problem. The thing is, the current system does not allow drivers to challenge bad reviews, such as negative reviews from drunk passengers who file inaccurate, and undeserved, negative reviews. It has also been said that unscrupulous drivers will sabotage other drivers’ ratings by having bogus negative reviews submitted either by themselves or by people they hire to ride in and negatively review other drivers’ performance.
By unionizing, the drivers hope to be able to address, and correct, many of these issues.
• The Teamsters Union is lending a hand – The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is one of the largest, most powerful , and well known unions in the world. With their immense resources and vast experience, they will be a formidable adversary for Uber to do battle with. A recent demonstration by over 500 Uber drivers in front of the Santa Monica CA Uber offices made headlines throughout California and throughout the rest of the country as well.
• Ubers response to the drivers efforts to Unionize – Uber claims that the drivers are not employees but rather are software licensees, and thus do not constitute a legal bargaining unit and so are not eligible for membership in the Teamsters, or any, union. This sleazy tactic has been used before by slave driving, selfish companies who don’t seem to care about the happiness or welfare of their drivers or employees.
An Uber spokesperson recently told a reporter from VentureBeat that “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”. It is exactly this kind of arrogant, selfish attitude which is rapidly eroding the public image Uber presents and causing drivers to unite and unionize. Exploitation of this type has been attempted, and declared illegal many times in the history of labor relations in the United States. It often happens that rival companies in the same trade will emerge with a business model more favorable to the workers and drive companies like Uber out of business entirely. If that should happen to Uber it will be exactly what they deserve for so blatantly and greedily disregarding the rights of the very drivers who have put them in the position to be valued at billions of dollars. The day of the capitalistic robber barons has long passed, and it is high time that invasive parasites like the people running Uber are made to conform to the law of the land just like every other business in America is required to do. California Lawsuits – A number of lawsuits currently pending in the California legal system will help to determine the future of the drivers’ union status, and the future of Uber itself; California Assembly Bill 2293, for instance, addresses the liability insurance issue and is being steadfastly opposed by Uber. With an estimated value exceeding 18 Billion dollars, Uber can and does retain powerful legal guns to oppose these court challenges. Only time will tell who will prevail- justice and fairness or money and clout. Hopefully Uber will be forced to adopt practices that are both legal and ethical and begin treating their drivers more fairly in the future. This would include addressing issues such as job security, liability insurance, false promises made to recruit new drivers and all of the other topics which have garnered Uber negative headlines all across the nation.
Conclusion – With the powerful Teamsters union on their side, and the spate of legal challenges cropping up in California and elsewhere across the nation, many feel that it is only a matter of time until the drivers prevail against Uber and get accepted as a union organization. Historically the courts in California and in other states as well have sided on the side of the employee (A district court in Frankfurt Germany even went as far as to ban Uber from operating anywhere in Germany for infringing on the operation of legit, legal cabs. After nearly a month an appellate court eventually lifted the ban due to a legal technicality). If this prediction of redemption for the drivers and unions becomes a reality, it will undoubtedly change the playing field, and force Uber to play fairly or get out of the ride for hire business altogether. There is little doubt that Lyft drivers are soon to follow with lawsuits and unionization attempts of their own if the Uber drivers prevail in their attempt to be treated fairly. I for one cannot wait for this day of reckoning to come!