California Close to Forcing Uber, Lyft to Accept Labor Unions

Bill ‘would fundamentally change what Uber and ridesharing is…’

Uber drivers lobby for ’employee’ designation in California. / IMAGE: Sacramento Bee via Youtube

(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) A California appropriations bill that seeks to regulate ride-sharing services could prove to be another major rift in Democrats’ precarious web of identity politics.

Leftist policies have increasingly pitted one interest group against another, whether it be African–American wage-workers versus illegal immigrants, feminists versus transgender women, Muslims versus LGBT activists or Chinese refugees versus radical pro-abortionists.

Now, another battle is taking shape between the competing forces of socialism and labor unions.

Already, the two sides have clashed over plans such as Medicare for All that would undo the hard-fought boons that Big Labor has negotiated and extorted on behalf of its workers.

The next spat sees proponents of Silicon Valley’s corporate-backed collectivist ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft going up against drivers who seek to unionize and demand benefits, as well as a guaranteed minimum wage.

The current ride-sharing business model views the companies and their app-based platforms as conduits for user-to-user transactions, but increasingly they have evolved to become a major industry unto themselves.

The bill under consideration in the California Senate, AB 5, aims to reclassify the drivers—currently considered independent contractors—as employees, according to Vox.

The legislation was voted out of committee on Friday and sent to the Senate floor.

“If AB 5 passes the full Senate, it would essentially disrupt a business model championed and cherished by Silicon Valley,” said Vox.

“Uber, Lyft, and other app-based gig companies rely on hundreds of thousands of independent contractors to give rides, deliver food, and complete other tasks.”

Although it reportedly lobbied for an exemption, Uber found itself in a delicate position of trying to outwardly virtue-signal to drivers and customers in the state that it was still one of the ‘good guys’ while defending its profit margins.

“Uber is ready to do our part. That is why we have been at the table in California … to propose a truly innovative framework that we believe would preserve Uber’s key benefit for drivers (flexibility) and key benefit for riders (reliability), while improving the quality and security of independent work,” the company wrote in a blog post on Medium.

“California lawmakers should consider drivers’ unique needs first and foremost, and provide leadership with a new model for workers, not just add to the growing collection of industries,” it said.

Uber claimed that the designation as employees would, in fact, stifle the innovations its model proposed and deprive its workers of benefits even better than those that might be guaranteed to employees.

“To be very clear: despite what some are saying, we are not arguing for the status quo, nor are we denying that independent work needs to be improved,” said the blog post. “And a false promise that employment is without its own challenges purposefully ignores the opportunity before California today to modernize the law to benefit workers.”

The company also noted that turning it into a glorified taxi service “would fundamentally change what Uber and ridesharing is.”

And, of course, turning its business model into that of any old company would come with similar trade-offs.

“We would likely have to exert more control over drivers, telling them where to work, how to work, and who they can work for,” said the post.

“Uber would likely hire far fewer drivers than we currently support, and we’d likely have to require a minimum number of hours per week,” it continued. “Scheduling and rigid shifts would become the norm, and Uber would likely prevent drivers from working for other rideshare companies.”

Similar to the ride-sharing dispute in California, another blue-state metropolis has targeted the sharing economy that has sprung up around hospitality platforms like AirBnb.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was facing criticism for backing new industry regulations that would force the participating lodgings to obtain special permits, subjecting them to the same bureaucratic oversight as hotels.

One of the top supporters of de Blasio’s 2020 presidential campaign, the Hotel Trades Council, a hospitality labor union, was behind the push to tweak the city’s land-use review policies in order to muscle out the competition.

“I think we should extend it as far as we can with the City Council because what it does is it gives us the opportunity to determine what a hotel will mean for a community,” de Blasio said at a recent campaign rally, flanked by the hotel union bosses.