New York Uber Labor Agreement Bashed By Outside Union

REUTERS/Charles Platiau

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A New York City taxi driver union bashed the machinists union Monday for reaching a contract deal with Uber over its lack of  collective bargaining rights.

The International Association of Machinists formed the Independent Drivers Guild to represent an estimated 35,000 drivers. The guild will provide drivers the ability to organize together but does not come with the full protections of a union with collective bargaining rights. New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai told Reuters the deal was a “historic betrayal.”

Desai notes the deal sacrifices important tools to achieve economic power. Uber considers drivers contractors that can’t form a collective bargaining unit like employees can. A collective bargaining agreement is a special labor contract that allows unions the right to represent all employees within a single workplace. It also grants monopoly rights against other labor groups.

Uber and other sharing-economy ventures have had a troubled relationship with the labor movement. The Service Employees International Union and Airbnb almost reached a deal but it fell through after receiving external pressure from other unions. The sharing-economy offers workers increased flexibility but often lacks traditional workplace protections.

“The guild is the first of its kind,” drivers guild founder James Conigliaro Jr. said on a conference call May 10. “Drivers need immediate support, and we truly believed it was our responsibility to create a structure to help independent drivers in New York.”

The guild could still provide benefits drivers currently do not have. Uber and the guild have formed a five-year agreement that will provide drivers the ability to discuss workplace issues with the company locally and nationally. It will allow drivers to make an appeal if the company blocked them from the app.

The sharing-economy model involves smartphone-based applications in which individuals can build their own business. Airbnb connects homeowners to people looking to rent a room, while Uber and Lyft connects drivers to those in need of a ride. The model has grown rapidly and has spread across multiple industries in just a few years.

The sharing economy has avoided many laws and workplace regulations because it utilizes contractors as opposed to employees. Unions say workers are being robbed of the benefits they deserve when they are classified as contractors instead of employees.

Seattle lawmakers proposed a bill last year that will force sharing economy ventures to treat their contractors like employees. Federal labor agencies have also worked to undermine the model and make it more like traditional counterparts. There have been lawsuits by workers claiming Uber takes advantage because they’re classified as contractors.

The machinists union did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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