Tag Archives: Uber

Uber CEO Wins Lie of the Week Award on Gig Workers Unemployment

New Orleans       In the Age of Trump, we biscuit cookers get used to hearing disassembling, tall tales, falsehoods, exaggerations, spin, or, not to mince words, lies, on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.  These are dangerous days in the White House.  After many moons with a drought of press conferences, now there is one on a daily basis.  Trump now gives medical advice, second guesses the FDA on drug cures, and generally teeters around between trying to look serious while selling snake oil.  It’s hard to beat the president in any contest for big whopping lie-of-the-week.

Somehow, the CEO of Uber, the rule and regulation defying ride-hailing service has managed to do so.  The New York Times asked the CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, how they were handling all of their gig workers.   “…Suggesting that his hands were tied because Uber drivers are independent contractors,” he said, “This situation certainly demonstrates the downside of attaching basic protections to W-2 employment.”

Wow!

We’re left with a choice in reading this lie.

Either he is stupid with a multi-million-dollar paycheck or we are stupid and left, like his employees, holding an empty bag.

Let’s fact check this lie.

Unemployment insurance is insurance paid equally by the worker and the employer.  Uber is trying to pretend that it is a “basic protection,” whatever that means, but let’s assume Uber thinks it means something like welfare.  Uber actually knows this full well, as does its CEO.  They refuse to pay it!! Furthermore, in states, like California where legislation has classified gig workers, like their tens of thousands of drivers as workers, they have challenged it in court.  Furthermore, they have refused to turn over employment and income data to the state required of every other employer.

Khosrowshahi knows this full well, underlining the fact that this is a lie and he thinks all of us are stupid.  The entire business model of Uber is based on not paying unemployment, social security, or anything else for its huge gig-force.  They flaunt the “basic protections,” no matter how minimal for workers around the world by continuing to pretend that his so-called “W-2 employment” is a government responsibility, rather than an employer mandate.  W-2 employment simply means acknowledging that you are the employer and your people are the workforce.  It’s not hard, except for scofflaws like Uber.

Inadvertently in lying to all of us, Uber is allowing even more of its business model to be exposed.  They want to rake in the money and leave the workers somewhere in the middle between on-their-own and the problem of the government.  Not enough work?  Not Uber’s problem, but the governments.  Too old to work and no social security paid for your labor, once again, not Uber’s problem, but something the government should sort out one fine day when the bill comes due in the future.  Uberites claim this is part of their libertarian Silicon Valley commitment, but it is the opposite.  They want a welfare state to allow them to make the money and take care of the workers while they keep the income the workers earn for them.

I’d love to see the fool pay back unemployment credits out of his own paycheck, but even he doesn’t make enough to do that.  Once again Uber has proven that it doesn’t play by the rules and doesn’t have any intention of ever doing so, whether it is run by the cowboy founder or Mr. Fix-it.

Tragically, Uber workers are paying for this lie instead, while the company cruises along continuing to assume it can tell all of us any cock-and-bull story it feels like, and we’ll swallow it whole.

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Please enjoy A Little Soon To Say by Jackson Browne.

Thanks to WAMF.

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The Predatory Fight to Keep Workers Temporary and “Independent”

Little Rock      Once upon a time we might have been able to look at the Department of Labor to lead the way in drawing the bright lines that establish whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, regular or temporary.  If that didn’t work, perhaps there might be some way to look at cases before the National Labor Relations Board that were forced to decide whether a worker was regular enough to vote and be part of a bargaining unit or temporary, casual, and out of luck.  Those were the “good” old days.  You know the 1900s.  The twentieth century.  Now, if you want to try and figure this out, especially given the predatory and pernicious way that app-based companies have hired hundreds of thousands of workers and pretended they are all free as birds, you have keep your eye on California, where legislators, regulators, and the public understand how critical this issue is.

California legislators, after years of struggle with the issue, decided once and for all, that gig workers, not just with the giant predators Uber and Lyft, but across the board, were employees, not independent subcontractors.  In California, as opposed to say, Arkansas or Louisiana or most of the lower forty-right, that actually means something.  A worker has some rights.  Higher minimum wage and paid sick days are a good examples, but that’s just where it starts.  The California Labor Code is extensive and gets over the walls and into the workplace and up in a boss’s face with a long list of “do rights.”

Uber, Lyft, Door Dash, and a gazillion others want to pretend they are tech companies and simply a computerized algorithm application that is linking a customer with some Joe or Jane out in the wild blue who wants to provide a service.  Of course, they want you to overlook the fact that they interview and qualify you, insist on what age and condition your vehicle is, set the rates you can charge, and on and on.  In labor unions, we would say that they set the hours, wages, and terms and conditions of employment.  The only thing they arguably don’t do is set the hours.

These companies aren’t happy with the California law.  They tried to make a deal.  They would agree to talk with their workers.  They would do a little of this and that, but, please, Mr. Golden Bear, don’t say the “e” word and make our workers officially “employees” of our companies.  The reason is clear.  Their business model is based on exploiting their workers and not paying minimum wages, social security, medical benefits, or of course any of the costs associated with the worker’s tools, meaning their car, its gas, and condition or the bicycle, scooter or whatever.  They now have raised a $100 million in hopes the voters of California will let them go back to rip-off the workers world.  That’s a long shot, if I were betting.  Californians are the France of America.  They like their benefits.  Who wouldn’t?

Listening to the radio on the road the other day, the absurdity became clear as I listened to one of the companies claim they were going to make a change in their app that would make their drivers more independent.  They were going to let them know if they picked up a fare on Uber how far they would have to go, so they could take it or pass.  My first thought was holy-moly, you mean a driver was clueless before on whether or not the fare was around the corner or miles away.  Sure enough, a driver was interviewed who talked about having landed a fare from Los Angeles to Bakersfield more than a hundred miles away.  He made money going, but then was out of luck on the way back.

A couple of tweaks are not going to change the story out there.  When you’re working for the man, you’re working for the man, whether you can see him through your app or not.  If the company controls the terms and conditions of employment, you’re an employee and entitled to the pluses or pitfalls that come with it.  Period.

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