May 03, 2016

    Uber drivers in NY unite to boost bargaining power


    UBER drivers in New York state have formed an association to strengthen their hand in dealing with the ride-sharing service, labour leaders said on Sunday, days after the company agreed to a US$100 million (S$134 million) settlement with drivers in two other states.

    More than 1,000 Uber drivers signed up with the association, called Amalgamated Local of Livery Employees in Solidarity, or Alles.

    The recent settlement with Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts over expense claims also allowed them to form associations that can bring grievances to the attention of management.

    The step follows a recent decision by the National Labour Relations Board that blocked the formation of a traditional union for Uber drivers.

    Alles said it would work to protect members against car companies, insurance firms and others, while urging New York City and state to tighten regulations on Uber and its ride-sharing competitors.

    Since Uber management controls the fares charged for the service, drivers want and need security and protection, the association said in a statement. "Uber financiers are forcing drivers to work long hours without any benefits or labour law protections."

    Drivers are struggling to make car payments, maintain their vehicles and still have enough money left over to support their families, said Kevin Lynch, co-chair of the association.

    Uber, along with Lyft and other competitors, enable passengers to ask for rides with a smartphone app that sends the request to drivers who use their own cars. Many of the drivers are part-timers.

    A class-action suit by Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts claimed Uber drivers were employees and thus entitled to reimbursement of expenses. The company insists drivers are independent contractors.

    The April 21 settlement, which still must be approved by a San Francisco federal judge, provides for a US$100 million payout to drivers in those two states on the basis of how many kilometres each has driven for Uber.

    As a part of the settlement, the company can still treat drivers as contractors but it agreed to allow them to form drivers' associations.