Sunday, March 12, 2017

Uber Gears Up to Block Bid to Form a Union in Seattle

This always seemed like a bigger story than most of the media was treating it as. Now that seems to have changed.
Some links after the jump.

From The Wall Street Journal:
Before accepting rides on his Uber app each day, Seattle driver Fasil Teka must first choose whether to listen to company-run podcasts on voting rights, collective bargaining and city council hearings.
He and other drivers in the city have received text messages, meeting invites and phone surveys from ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc. in an attempt, the company says, to sway them against unionizing.
Mr. Teka said he isn’t persuaded. “Uber is telling us they don’t want us to join a union,” the 41-year-old said, one of Uber’s 1.5 million “driver partners” as the company calls them. “Uber also tells us we’re their partners, but they don’t treat us like we are partners.”
Uber is squaring up for a long fight in Seattle to block the nation’s first real unionization effort for app-based drivers, pitting it against the Teamsters labor union and Seattle’s city council. Uber says a union threatens the freedom of its drivers to work as much or as little as they wish and, moreover, isn't something its drivers want.
“We continually seek to incorporate driver feedback on how their experience can be improved,” said Caleb Weaver, head of Uber’s public policy in Washington state. “At the most fundamental level in this business, we don’t succeed unless drivers succeed.”
In a series of podcasts, Brooke Steger, Uber’s general manager for the Pacific Northwest, interviews drivers about how they would be affected by a union, concluding that it isn’t in their best interests.
“It’s totally impossible to know how the ordinance could limit who can drive, when you can drive and where you can drive, as well as what you might be required to pay in union dues,” Ms. Steger says in one podcast.
The Seattle tussle is the latest challenge to Uber’s independent contractor model, which pushes expenses such as fuel, vehicle maintenance and insurance on to the drivers, in exchange for the promise of a steady stream of riders and a flexible work schedule. The model is a chief reason for Uber’s $68 billion valuation, though the company has faced a near-constant stream of lawsuits challenging the classification as nonemployees.
A Seattle ordinance passed in 2015 took effect in January giving drivers the right to vote to organize, meaning some 10,000 Uber contractors could win the right to negotiate fares and benefits. The dispute has taken on added urgency in recent days as the Teamsters seek access to driver contact information from Uber and rival Lyft Inc. to help with organizing efforts, even as lawsuits challenging the ordinance roll in, including from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a group of 11 drivers backed by the National Right to Work Committee.
Meanwhile, Uber has been buffeted by sexual-harassment claims by a former engineer, a lawsuit from Alphabet Inc. alleging the theft of trade secrets, and a video leak showing Chief Executive Travis Kalanick berating a driver.
The company says a union could threaten drivers’ freedom and has suggested it may leave Seattle if a union forms. Union advocates say it would deliver more consistent wages and working conditions, and help prevent Uber and Lyft from implementing sudden fare changes or shutting off drivers’ apps....MUCH MORE
Here are some of our prior posts on the unionization angle:
October 2016 
The Uber Drivers Guild, Funded By Uber, Promises Not To Strike
September 2016 
The Fine Line Uber Is Walking With Its Drivers 
July 2016
Dear Teamsters: It Looks Like Uber Was Trying To Dig Up Dirt On The Seattle Local
April 2016
California Uber Drivers Partnering With Teamsters Union
Feb 2016
"Taxi And Uber Drivers, Once Mortal Enemies, Join Forces In New Labor Dispute"
Jan 2016
Alphaville's Izabella Kaminska Banned- January 2016
The Sharing Economy Is Labor’s Next Hope
December 2015
Seattle is first city in nation to give Uber, other contract drivers ability to unionize
Dec. 10, 2014
What Uber Hath Wrought: The Coming Digital Labor Movement
The very last thing the poobahs of Sand Hill Road want to see. They overwhelmingly prefer NO unions. 
During the 2008* Democratic nomination campaign we pointed out that although the self-anointed Silicon Valley aristocracy were solidly behind Senator Obama, rank-and-file Dems in Santa Clara county went for Hillary 54.8% to Obama's 39.3% in that year's primary. 
The reason this gets interesting is a possible split between various constituencies.
For example the Teamsters union can't be very enthusiastic about the prospect of autonomous trucks.
The bad-apple cops responsible for repeat police brutality claims are protected in their jobs by very strong unions. Who do you go with, the protestors or the police unions?
I don't know how this all plays out but it seems easier to understand if we dispense with party labels and go with a plutocrats/peasants framework....
Dec. 12, 2014
As Chicago Prepares an App For Taxis to Compete With Uber, Giant Union AFSCME is Organizing Cab Drivers
 Oct. 29, 2015
Watch Out Uber: National Labor Relations Board Interpretation Could Allow Many Taxi Drivers to Unionize 
Dec. 4, 2013
Dear Teamsters, United Auto Workers: Google Is Trying To Crush Your Unions and Your Members (GOOG)
Here's how the Teamsters reacted to stress in 1934, the management guy heading for terra firma  died almost instantly of a crushed occipital lobe: