Friday, June 27, 2014

'Sharing-economy' workers moving toward unions

The more things change.... Uber's business model of making taxi drivers into "independent contractors" is -- surprise, surprise! --leading more and more of those drivers to the conclusion that they must unionize and organize to protect their rights and wages [emphasis mine]:

Uber’s disruption of the cab industry has been welcomed by nearly everyone except those who rely on the cab industry for their livelihoods. It’s arguably made on-demand car rides easier, cleaner, safer, more accessible and, in some cases, even cheaper.

Indeed, such disruption is overdue. The high prices of regulated taxi medallions have kept a small number of bosses in control, while drivers pay high gate fees in order to access their cars and wages. Uber is right that the traditional system is not well suited to drivers’ or customers’ needs.

But the new boss is not so different from the old boss. Uber’s revolution is not actually its technology but its market power. It has disrupted the cab industry in ways so many others can only dream of by leveraging the labor of thousands of workers who are exceptionally underprotected. 

[...] Only four years after the service debuted in San Francisco, Uber drivers nationwide are getting organized and demanding better treatment.  And this could have huge implications for the trajectory of the peer-to-peer economy. As work changes, so will the ways workers seek to protect themselves and their livelihood.

Recently, one of my main bearded liberal economists Dean Baker wrote about the new "sharing economy" embodied by Uber and Airbnb that may seem like a good deal for consumers but is actually a net ripoff.

Thankfully, it seems that just as fast as Uber has disrupted the old model, actual workers and common sense are moving to disrupt Uber.

By Susie Cagle
June 27, 2014 | Al Jazeera

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