Issue 44: This can't be the future of work

12 Apr 2019

“Uber’s billion dollar IPO is built off my labor”

This week Mostafa Maklad, an Uber driver from Afghanistan, wrote an opinion piece on NBC Think. Here’s what he had to say:

Drivers are not (in Uber’s view) even workers, though we do the vast majority of the work. We get no perks, no benefits and no security. If we are killed on the job, we receive no survivor benefits since we are not eligible for workers comp.

… I’ve given 8,000 rides, usually driving between 50-60 hours a week—though sometimes it’s 80. The living hourly wage—the amount of money one needs to earn to afford housing, food, medical care and transportation—is about $20 for a single adult in San Francisco; I routinely make half that. … I can’t continue working with no healthcare, no retirement and no security for my family if I’m injured or killed on the job. 

Drivers are workers and we deserve a fair share of the millions that we make for Uber and Lyft each year. We are all driving to survive, but we work for a company that makes us fend for ourselves when times are tough. Uber and Lyft can choose to change; a living wage, healthcare, paid time off and worker protections aren’t too much to ask from a company potentially worth $120 billion.

Yesterday, Uber filed for its long awaited IPO. Last year the company lost $1.8 billion. It is expected the company will go to market at a valuation of $100 billion. In their IPO prospectus they admitted their business model would break if they were forced to recognize drivers as employees: “Any such reclassification would require us to fundamentally change our business model.” The prospectus also admitted that protests work, and that they could “harm our future operating results.” Uber acknowledged that the #DeleteUber campaign that took place 2017 led to “hundreds of thousands” of riders to stop using Uber.

Mostafa believes it’s not too much to ask Uber to pay living wage, healthcare, and paid time off. In response, Uber says if it were forced to recognize its drivers as employees, their business would fail.  Workers and capital are at direct odds with each other: this really is zero sum. Either we—the workers—let bosses make $100 billion by not treating their workers with dignity, or we don’t.

If you are a driver in LA and want to organize, contact LA Drivers United. If you are a driver in the Bay Area and want to organize, contact Gig Workers Rising.

Upcoming Events

Panel Discussion: Organizing in the Tech Industry
Thursday, 4/18 6:30PM at Washington State Labor Council in Seattle 

TWC Portland Local Meeting
Saturday, 4/27 3PM at 2249 E Burnside Street in Portland

The Code of Conduct is in effect at all TWC events.

In The News

31,000 workers at the Northeastern grocery store chain Stop & Shop walked off the job yesterday in what is the largest private-sector strike in the US since the Verizon workers strike of 2016.

Thousands of workers at Amazon are not content to wait while their corporation wreaks apocalyptic havoc on the environment. 5,000 and counting workers have signed the letter written to management that calls out where the company is falling short on its empty PR promises and outlines six climate-change response principles they urge Amazon to adopt now.

White nationalists continue to find safe haven and vocal platform on Facebook

Employers can pay period, fertility, and pregnancy tracking apps for the health information of their employees

Workers demanded the director of tech education non-profit Girl Develop It resign due to persistent and pervasive racism in the org. Last week she finally did, prompting additional criticism after her Facebook post in search of a new “diversity & inclusion” gig.

Pinkerton, the security firm founded in the 1850s and grew into fame as Andrew Carnegie’s personal militia, has adapted with the market to fulfill the evolving risks faced by corporations. As a corporate risk management consultancy, its service offerings range from cybersecurity and “global intelligence” to armed guards and executive evacuation. Its employees go through “private-sector urban-combat training”; they help corporations prepare for climate change’s “threat multiplier: displacement begets desperation begets disorder.” The Pinkertons compete with consulting mainstays like Deloitte, which also offer “pre- and post-disaster services like supply chain monitoring and damage documentation but which cannot, say, dispatch a helicopter full of armed guards to Guatemala in an afternoon. In theory, Pinkerton can do both—a fully militarized managerial class at corporate disposal.” In the late 19th century when the Pinkertons outnumbered in size the US Army, they were dispatched to break up some 70 labor strikes—either by going undercover to provide intel, or through brute force.” Today that service offering is “the Pinkerton Dedicated Professional, in which agents join a client’s company like any other new hire, allowing them to provide intel on employees.” Its client roster includes 80% of the Fortune 1000.

Song Of The Week

The Abolitionist by Savile