A judge in Washington State has rejected Uber’s attempt to overturn a Seattle ordinance that gives its drivers the right to unionize, potentially opening the door for higher rates and labor costs. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Teamsters labor union intends to begin working to organize drivers soon.
The legal battle over the rule, which originally passed in December of 2015, has been lengthy. Last August, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce business group seeking the rule’s suspension.
Gee, you wouldn’t want to frame this “potentially opening the door to dignified lives for workers” or anything. Of course, this is from Fortune, magazine of the New Gilded Age. Anyway:
Uber has extensively lobbied its own drivers to oppose unionization. The company says the rule could impinge on drivers’ flexibility, and has previously protested a provision that would give voting rights on the unionization question only to drivers who make at least 52 trips in a three-month period. Those higher-volume drivers are presumed to be more likely to support unionization.
Observers have long argued that Uber’s business model depends on very low pay for drivers. A British government report last year found that Uber drivers often took home substantially less than that country’s hourly living wage. Elsewhere, Uber has battled lawsuits over its classification of drivers as contractors rather than employees.
Even under such conditions, Uber has repeatedly posted huge operating losses. Drivers pushing for higher fares or pay rates, then, are a major threat to the company’s viability.
The entire company is losing money on every ride while also relying on poverty wages and playing with employment law to shield itself and force its low-paid drivers to bear the burden of responsibility on the job. To say the least, this company needs to die. If employment law was to cover these workers and if unions were to represent the drivers, I would have no problem with rideshare services. The problem is not that I need to defend the traditional taxi companies, which are pretty bad in their own right. The problem is that the rideshare companies won’t do such less than crazy things as “consider their workers employees” and “run background checks on the drivers” and “make sure the drivers make at least the minimum wage.” This, on top of Uber’s cozying up with Cheeto Mussolini, makes it one of the New Gilded Age’s most rapacious and awful corporations.