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UBER’s Sharing Economy Is A New Name For Exploiting Workers

Uber and the “sharing economy” may be the biggest economic lie since “Right to Work.”

The sharing economy is a fraud, a sham, a corporate marketing stunt to get people who believe that by using “on-demand” apps is somehow helping workers and not feeding the greedy capitalistic system.

Webster’s defines the sharing economy as: “Economic activity that involves individuals buying or selling usually temporary access to goods or services especially as arranged through an online company or organization.”

What part of “sharing” means charging a fee for service?

A true sharing economy would be offering free rides to people because you were already going there. Pretty much like a carpool of with your co-workers. Everyone rides together saving money and then rotates the burden of driving between the different riders.

That is not what ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft actually are. These ridesharing apps are using technology to hire a personal driver to take you wherever you need to go. They are a taxicab with a free app to notify the driver you need a ride.

Companies like Uber are actually hurting workers and hurting the economy with these on-demand ridesharing apps. Uber is bypassing years of progress and regulations on the taxicab industry that has helped to protect the passengers and helped to ensure the drivers are paid a living wage.

Most major cities and states have taxicab commissions that regulate the taxi and limousine industry. They ensure that the company properly maintains the cars, they ensure that the company carries the proper commercial car insurance, they ensure that drivers are properly trained, and usually set minimum rates to ensure that all workers are paid decent wage.

As employees of a taxicab company drivers are also able to access employment based benefits like social security, unemployment, vacation time, healthcare, and retirement options.

Uber avoids all of these regulations and employee based benefits by signing up drivers as “independent contractors.” The only requirements Uber has to be an independent driver is that you have a car, a driver’s license and proof of insurance. The driver’s name is also run through a very weak background check before being signed up as a driver that has led to hundreds of reported cases of assault by an Uber and Lyft drivers.

Uber does not verify the condition of the vehicle or ensure that the driver has coverage that would protect a paying passenger in case of an accident. Because Uber drivers are not employees they do not get access to healthcare benefits, retirement, sick or vacation time, social security, and Uber is not required to ensure that workers make at least the state minimum wage per hour.

Some Uber drivers in large cities are making upwards of $20 an hour for full or part time work, but after expenses (insurance, wear and tear on the vehicle, gas, taxes) are factored in, many only average about $10 an hour.

In smaller cities, where the demand for on-demand drivers is far less, drivers are routinely making less than minimum wage after expenses.

Recently the AFL-CIO released its “Statement of Principles On the On-Demand Economy” laying out ways to protect working people in an ever-changing work environment.

“The AFL-CIO is committed to making sure that the on-demand economy leads to better lives for working people,” said AFL-CIO Director of Policy Damon Silvers. “New technologies must not be an excuse for old style injustice. Workers in the on-demand economy, no matter what their titles, must have decent wages and benefits, safety and most of all, a collective voice on the job.”

If you really want to participate in the sharing economy, start a carpool don’t hire an Uber driver, because you are not really helping the driver, you are feeding the greed of capitalism that has exploited workers for hundreds of years.

Still unsure about Uber and it’s effect on our economy. Check out this great video from Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.


Also listen to this excellent podcast from Best of the Left on the sharing economy.



About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News
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