Many labor advocates view Uber as the leading practitioner of illegal worker misclassification because it insists that its 400,000 U.S. drivers are independent contractors rather than employees. Uber says its drivers—it calls them “partners”—are their own bosses who have the flexibility to drive whatever hours they want and even drive for competitors like Lyft and Sidecar…Indeed, with its clout, cachet, and big-name backers, Uber has sought to redefine what an employee is. No way, it says, should its drivers be considered employees, asserting that its relationship with them is attenuated—even though the company hires and fires the drivers, sets their fares, takes a 20 percent commission from fares, gives drivers weekly ratings, and orders them not to ask for tips. For Uber, there are manifold advantages to treating its drivers as independent contractors. Not only does it avoid being covered by minimum wage, overtime, and anti-discrimination laws, but it sidesteps having to make contributions for Social Security, Medicare, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance. It also escapes the employer obligations of the Affordable Care Act. By some estimates, all this cuts Uber’s compensation costs by more than 20 percent per driver.
—Steven Greenhouse, “On the Road To Nowhere,” The American Prospect, Winter 2016
[T]here’s a lot of discontent among drivers, both those who work for Uber and those who work for what are derisively called “incumbent” companies. Traditional drivers have staged protests against Uber and its rivals in Los Angeles, Washington and across Europe, although none have gone to the same lengths as Parisian cabbies, who have attacked the cars, smashing windows and slashing tires. And while Kalanick et al. have a point about the restricted taxi availability in major cities, it’s the fleet owners who are profiting, not the drivers facing a low-cost rival.
—Doug Henwood, “What the Sharing Economy Takes,” The Nation, January 27, 2015
Photos taken February 11, rush hour, Broad & Tasker Streets.