Ride-hailing giant Uber, which is on its way to Vancouver, doesn’t believe drivers are core to its business.
Uber’s stance is that it’s a “tech” company, a label companies love to attach to themselves, for a variety of reasons. (See: WeWork.)
This argument, that drivers aren’t a core part of Uber’s business, came up amidst the company’s ongoing fight against the AB5 Bill that was passed in California in September.
In a nutshell, the AB5 Bill limits the ability for companies to classify its workers as independent contractors, as opposed to employees, who are entitled to certain benefits and protected by labour laws.
This legislation is hugely disruptive to companies like Uber, whose business model hinges on, essentially, cheap independent contractors. In an official Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, the company said as much:
“If, as a result of legislation or judicial decisions, we are required to classify Drivers as employees…we would incur significant additional expenses for compensating Drivers, potentially including expenses associated with the application of wage and hour laws (including minimum wage, overtime, and meal and rest period requirements), employee benefits, social security contributions, taxes, and penalties.”
“[Uber and Lyft] are making the claim — which is preposterous — that they’re more like Craigslist, that they provide a space for buyers and sellers to meet. But in fact, they set the prices, what car you can use, all kinds of things. They’re not more like Craigslist; they’re an employer”, Rebecca Givan, a labour relations professor at Rutgers University, told Recode.
Uber & Vancouver
This all comes as Uber is moving into Vancouver, the largest market in North America without ride-hailing, which is to say that it’s coming with its reputation in the gutter.
Some pundits seem to think that Uber is using the “drivers aren’t core to our business” defense as a stalling tactic.
“If nothing else — whether or not it passes the smell test — it buys them the time and buys them leverage. If you say, ‘Yep, we’re gonna sue the hell out of Uber,’ that could take three, four, [or] five years to take place”, said Bradley Tusk, an early Uber investor and regulatory advisor, to Recode.
Regardless of whether that’s true, what kind of company would encourage the perception that it disregards its workers like this?
To borrow a quote from philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.”
And that man is Travis Kalanick. Kalanick was the Co-Founder and CEO of Uber, before shareholders forced him to resign. By almost all accounts, he’s unliked.
“I’m a terrible person”, he once admitted during a existential meltdown.
He may not be with the company anymore, but the culture he built seems to have remained.
Uber may be coming to Vancouver, but don’t expect it to all be smooth-sailing.
For more local Metro Vancouver news, stay tuned to 604 Now News.
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