Uber is suddenly everywhere and when I say “everywhere” I’m not just talking about the streets of San Francisco or LAX airport (where it may be coming soon.) Or even the fact that Uber is now more popular than taxis. I’m talking about the news.
Like the story last month when Courtney Love, in the midst of an anti-Uber protest in Paris, was held hostage – along with her driver - when her car was attacked. Or this week’s story about how Uber has become a “lightning-rod, wedge issue” in the 2016 presidential campaign. Who knew? All of a sudden, Uber has become front-page political news with appearances on Entertainment Tonight.
But I prefer to focus on stories about how Uber and its drivers treat the rest of us, including its own drivers! Let me explain.
First, as the New York Times put it today, there has been a lot of concern about Uber’s treatment of drivers “as independent contractors instead of full-time employees who would get health care and retirement benefits.” This week, the U.S. Department of Labor issued some guidance “suggesting more businesses should be designating workers as employees instead of independent contractors.” It should be noted that “Uber lost a high-profile case in California last month when the state's labor commission ruled that a driver for the company was an employee, not an independent contractor.”
Also this week,
[The California Public Utilities Commission] ordered Uber to pay a $7.3 million dollar fine and hand over required information about safety and accessibility — or shut down in the ride service’s home state.
[Regulators] said Uber was the only ride service that did not provide the information.
Writes the LA Times,
The reporting requirements include the number of requests for rides from people with service animals or wheelchairs; how many such rides were completed; and other ride-logging information such as date, time, Zip Code and fare paid. For Uber, which has raised $5.9 billion in venture capital investment, a $7.3-million fine would amount to less than 1% of that. A suspension, however, is another matter.
Also this week (speaking of paying for wrongdoing), Uber "reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit brought by the family of a 6-year-old girl who died in a San Francisco car accident, according to court filings. Sofia Liu died after she, her younger brother and their mother were hit by a car in a San Francisco crosswalk on New Year's Eve in 2013."
In New York City, where ThePopTort lives, Mayor de Blasio “is moving to halt the runaway expansion [of Uber], citing a classic urban scourge to make its case: The infusion of vehicles, the city says, appears to be clogging Manhattan traffic.” Others are more cynical, noting that “The yellow cab industry, which includes some of Mr. de Blasio’s most prolific campaign contributors, has pressured the administration to clamp down on Uber, a grave threat to owners amid the faltering values of the yellow-taxi medallion.”
Uber. Taxis. All I know is, New Yorkers need some way to get to LaGuardia Airport other than cars!