Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Seattle City Council Allows Uber and Lyft Drivers to form a union

Uber supporters demonstrate at a Seattle City Council meeting
Uber supporters demonstrate at a Seattle City Council meeting
The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution allowing Uber and Lyft Drivers to form a union.

Drivers were organized to advocate for the law by the App-Based Drivers Association which is associated with the Teamsters.

The vote is “history-setting in what we’re attempting to do here in terms of advancing the rights of drivers,” said Councilman Nick Licata.

Uber and Lyft Drivers of course are unhappy regarding the vote.

What’s Uber?

Uber has grown very quickly in six years into a multi-billion dollar corporation with drivers available in major cities.

With its app, you’re able to summon a driver to take you where you want to go quicker than the time it usually takes to hail a cab. Having taken Uber, I’d recommend it. Plus, the first ride is free.

However, Uber drivers have become unhappy due to the nature of their employment.

An Uber driver has the ability to often make more money if he puts in the hours. However, he is not an employee but rather an independent contractor. As such, he is not entitled to out of pocket reimbursements like tolls and benefits such as Social Security, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and overtime pay that traditional employees have.

While the Mayor of Seattle is wary of the law, the city has taken the lead on progressive issues such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

One of the issues that bothers him that is that independent contractors by law are exempt from joining a union.

Ergo, Uber drivers in California joined together in a class action lawsuit in dispute their status as independent contractors. Thus, the new law is likely going to have to be resolved by the courts. And the court system is full of judges who might not like this.

Should I boycott Uber?

Uber is part of a new trend of companies that create an app which allows struggling people to make money who otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity.

The problem is that other companies are also looking for ways to get employees to work for less money while executives and shareholders reap the rewards.

Uber is not the worst company out there. In fact, one of the main selling points for working there is that allows its drivers flexibility. With flexibility they can manage lives better. In addition, it does not force its employees to work on holidays for minimum wage.

Those companies also have a business model that benefits consumers and executives at the expense of their workforce. To protect themselves from government regulation, they hire someone with experience in that realm.

Uber’s uber executive

With its growth Uber has bought an important asset of a modern corporation; political power. President’s Obama 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe joined the company in 20014 to help address its Public Relations issues.

Plouffe has since promoted the company like the 2008 campaign; an outsider that’s shaking up the old order.

Other prominent Obama officials have joined Uber such as former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and former Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff of Staff who sit on its board.

This is part of the revolving door of politics whereby an individual can make a middle class salary working for the government and then up to seven figures in the private sector. That means that you have worked your way high enough up the ladder and built a rolodex full of powerful friends.

With such experience and rolodex, Plouffe has addressed some of Uber’s issues and worked to change the “narrative”; what the media is focusing on and saying regarding Uber.

With a former close advisor to the Democratic President, Uber probably won’t be targeted by Democrats as the embodiment of evil. There are far worse companies out there and a Republican Congress to deal with.

How does this affect the 2016 presidential election?

On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has denounced Uber since it is “unregulated”. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also expressed some criticism of Uber’s workforce policies.

The problem with something like Uber and many other Silicon Valley companies is that its employees are probably Democrats who would support a Democratic presidential campaign. Mitt Romney had a similar problem with Bain Capital which was unwilling to defend him against attacks.

The Republicans of course like it. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush have both expressed enthusiasm over the company and their innovative strategy.