Uber will fire a driver if his or her performance rating (an aggregate of the ratings provided by customers of that driver) falls below a certain level. Imagine the fear under which an Uber driver operates. Assume that a driver buys a one-year-old Toyota Camry and drives around Boston for 10 to 12 hours a day providing rides. He picks up a bunch of spiteful teenagers intent on dodging the fare, and they ding the driver’s rating because of a routing mistake or just for fun. A few such rides can get him fired. There is no mentoring, training, or improvement program—nothing.
In addition, and equally unfortunate, Uber is enticing some of its drivers to get into debt. The company helps drivers without good credit get on the road by financing the car purchase. A full-time driver in a city like Boston can top his income at between $600 and $1,000 per week. Out of this the driver has to pay, each month, between $200 and $300 for the car loan and at least $300 in car expenses (such as fuel, maintenance, and depreciation). A sick driver, or somebody unable to work for other reasons, still has to pay the loan, even though he or she might not be able to work for weeks.
Uber has also allegedly used underhanded tactics to recruit drivers and sabotage the business of its main competitor, Lyft, as reported recently by the New York Times and the Verge. Such shenanigans reflect a general disregard for the importance of developing human resources. People are treated as replaceable parts.
A cavalier approach to workforce management also shapes the company’s contracts of employment. To avoid liability, Uber deals with its drivers as independent contractors, creating a 21st century version of an old employment model, wherein day laborers stand on a street corner and wait for the boss to dish out work to a privileged few. It’s true that the rating system and the other quality control measures used by Uber can mean clean cars and polite drivers. And for some people, it provides a new route to part-time employment. But treating drivers as disposable elements does not make sound business sense because drivers play a key role in Uber’s service as well as other delivery offerings.
Last week, Uber announced the rollout of UBERMilitary – a program intended to onboard 50,000 members of the military community to the company’s fleet of drivers over the next 18 months.
The ridesharing company joins a growing number of big businesses reaping tremendous social capital from hiring programs that significantly under employ military veterans.
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Here’s the problem: the platitudes aren’t accompanied by an employment program that capitalizes on the very skills Uber is praising. Rather, Uber offers these “talented and skilled leaders” work as freelance drivers, responsible for their own insurance, medical care, car maintenance, and more.
In short, Uber pays lip service to valuing those who have served, while making no mention of hiring a single veteran for the company’s leadership or management teams.
These 2 members of the Clerisy just can’t gush enough.
At some point, there will be a limit to fare cutting. Either Uber will not be able to attract drivers, or the drivers will not maintain their cars, or the service will deteriorate, as cut-rate services tend to do. But when equilibrium is achieved, will an Uber driver’s ability to make a decent living factor into the equation, or will we wind up with more people without traditional employment supports — social security contributions, health benefits, sick time, vacation time — who must rely on our shrinking social safety net to get by?
Ridesharing is a racket. There’s nothing “disruptive” about taking an idea that already exists, like taxies, and figuring out how to become a cab company without owning a single car. In their current configurations, Uber and Lyft are entirely dependent on their drivers, who are currently in open revolt and quitting in disgust over the latest price cuts as Uber and Lyft fight it out to see who will win the rideshare wars. Despite constantly recruiting new drivers and offering incentives like wage guarantees and bonuses during the first month, after that initial trial run, the cold, hard reality of driving for hire in your own vehicle becomes painfully apparent.
Just like a traditional taxi company, ridesharing is built on the backs of drivers. But for full time drivers, ridesharing is becoming less and less viable. The money just doesn’t add up anymore. And the associated risks with ridesharing only make things worse.
Drivers all across the country are coming to this realization. They’re pissed beyond belief. They’ve taken to Facebook to voice their anger and organize protests, strikes, class action lawsuits and to form a union. They’ve even joined forces with the Teamsters.
In fact, if you ask Uber drivers off the clock what they think of the company, it often gets ugly fast. “Uber’s like an exploiting pimp,” said Arman, an Uber driver in LA who asked me to withhold his last name out of fear of retribution. “Uber takes 20 percent of my earnings, and they treat me like shit — they cut prices whenever they want. They can deactivate me whenever they feel like it, and if I complain, they tell me to fuck off.”
In LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York, tension between drivers and management has bubbled over in recent months. And even though Uber’s business model discourages collective action (each worker is technically in competition with each other), some drivers are banding together.
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But that is just empty spin: drivers aren’t partners — they are laborers exploited by their company. They have no say in business decisions and can be fired at any time. Instead of paying its employees a wage, Uber just pockets a portion of their earnings. Drivers take all the risks and front all the costs — the car, the gas, the insurance — yet it is executives and investors who get rich.
However, we do need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT), learn what Members of Congress pay in taxes, and prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading. Oh, and pay “public servants” what they are worth.