Seattle Uber Drivers Unionizing

About nine months ago, Daniel Ajema, a 33-year-old law student moonlighting as a driver for Uber, ran into a fellow driver in a gas station parking lot. The man had just been fired for getting poor ratings from passengers. But as a private contractor, like every other driver for the app based transportation network, he had no recourse to the company. Even worse, the man and his wife had sunk $39,000 of their own money into buying an SUV for the express purpose of him driving for Uber. Ajema recalls the man being on the verge of tears. What could he do?

Unionize! Hell yes. Sam Roudman at Tech President looks into how they did it in Seattle and how drivers in other cities can do the same.

Two Sundays ago, a couple hundred Uber drivers provided an answer, by forming a labor group with the help of the local Teamsters union, called the App-Based Drivers Association. The group won’t have the full powers of a union, for instance leadership can’t vote to make its entire membership strike. But with about a third of Seattle drivers signed on, the group hopes to use its leverage to advocate for greater transparency and responsiveness from the $12 billion company.

One of the first goals of the union is to encourage Uber to change its termination policy, wherein drivers are fired for bad ratings without discussion or review (it’s the no hearing part drivers object to, not the ratings). They would also like to be consulted when Uber changes its pricing and policies. Seems fair.

Getting drivers together to form the union was a real challenge, as the app doesn’t really give drivers a way to connect with each other, but they hit the pavement in Seattle and got interest cards from over 500 drivers. Pretty exciting and hopefully replicable!

Photo: carolyncoles



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