Unionizing Uber

What if Democrats got a cut of every ride you took?

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.

After Pete Buttigieg's campaign spent thousands of dollars on Uber and Lyft, the candidate showed up in San Francisco to protest the independent contractor status of gig drivers.

Joining a bunch of union activists who shut down traffic in front of Uber's headquarters, causing problems for everyone stuck behind them on Market Street, Buttigieg insisted that the gig economy is illegitimate and that Uber drivers were employees and not independent contractors.

"You deserve a minimum wage," he bleated through the noisy feedback of the sound system.

The minimum wage that the union protesters want is $30 an hour.

Uber lost $5.2 billion in the second quarter of 2019. New York City already imposed a minimum wage of $27.86 for Uber and Lyft. Taking an Uber in New York is now more expensive than calling for a car service. And customers voted with their wallets by looking for other options for going from A to B.

Uber trips dropped by well over a million in one month.

That million rides represented fewer passengers using Uber, fewer drivers finding a niche in the market, and less viability for the ridesharing market and the entire gig economy.

Assembly Bill 5, California’s plan to dismantle the gig economy, had brought out the union activists and Buttigieg, a politician who had no problem with Uber or Lyft, until it made a good photo op.

The San Francisco protest, which had to import supposed drivers from out of state, was organized by the Mobile Workers Alliance. The MWA is just a front for SEIU. And the radical lefty union isn’t doing all this work to raise wages, but to get a cut of every single time anyone gets into an Uber or Lyft. And, it goes without saying, pass on a piece of the action to Democrat politicians. That’s what all this is about.

The first line in Buttigieg’s New Rising Tide pitch to labor is, “Guarantee gig economy workers their labor rights, including unionization.” Not minimum wage or health coverage. Unionization. Sign up Uber drivers, take a chunk of their earnings so they can be passed on to Buttigieg and other Democrats.

Buttigieg had made several appearances at SEIU events. The Market Street traffic jam was just his latest SEIU gig whose likely outcome, if AB5 passes, would be to eventually wreck the gig economy for good.

Buttigieg always had the option of making sure that his campaign used companies with full-time employees for all its transportation needs. But Buttigieg’s people used Uber and Lyft because it’s convenient. Now Buttigieg wants to make it inconvenient, because there’s something in it for him.

A gig economy is based around flexibility and convenience. That’s a problem for municipalities which make money by taxing established industries. New York City is destroying ridesharing because it makes a fortune from auctioning off taxi medallions. Ridesharing ruined that business, so it’s ruining ridesharing.

SEIU wants workers it can unionize, not independent contractors, and wrecking the gig economy may wipe out a good source of money on the side for a lot of drivers, but also creates a more unionized marketplace. The actual drivers don’t get a vote on any of this. Neither does anyone else in a one-party state where the voters don’t matter and all the real decisions are made by corrupt lefty special interests. 

The losers in this game will be most drivers, all passengers, and the investors who poured money into Uber and Lyft, expecting them to develop a working business model, only for the model to be crushed.

But there’s no reason to feel sorry for Uber and Lyft for thinking that bringing in Arianna Huffington and Valerie Jarrett would protect them. Why would their leftist buddies settle for a seat on the board when they can have a sizable cut of a $50 billion business? Muggers don’t leave money on the table.

Meanwhile, the pro-AB5 2020 candidates, like Buttgieg and Senator Kamala Harris, are happy to have their campaigns go on saving time and money by using a service that they officially decry.

Senator Kamala Harris claimed that AB5 doesn’t go far enough. Her campaign spent the most at Uber and Lyft. Even more than Buttigieg. Senator Elizabeth Warren, always determined to be leftier than thou, demanded, “all Democrats need to stand up and say, without hedging, that we support AB 5 and back full employee status for gig workers.” But if Warren really believed that all along, her people would never have been spending thousands of dollars on Uber and Lyft rides in the gig economy.

Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the Workplace Democracy Act last year. It is an ‘act’, but there’s no democracy and its definition of a workplace is nearly anything someone does that earns them money. Apart from mandatory unionization and eliminating the ability of workers to opt out of unions, the bill would effectively eliminate independent contractors by modifying the National Labor Relations Act.

Bernie’s bill proposes that, “an individual performing any service shall be considered an employee.”

Recently, his campaign warned, “When Bernie is president, his administration will end the ability of corporations to misclassify workers as ‘independent contractors.’"

And yet, despite all that, his campaign went on using Uber and Lyft.

But, then again, the Sanders campaign is so committed to labor rights that it fired workers for engaging in labor organizing. Bernie’s Workplace Democracy Act unleashes a whole host of union harassment measures, including secondary boycotts, but when his unionized staffers complained about their pay, he whined, "It does bother me that people are going outside of the process and going to the media. That is really not acceptable. It is really not what labor negotiations are about, and it's improper."

When Democrats talk about fighting for the rights of workers, they mean for the rights of unions. And by unions, they mean the organizations that take money from other people and then pass it along to them.

They never meant the rights of the workers who aren’t paying them, but are being paid by them.

Unionizing Uber drivers isn’t a matter of principle, but of profit.

The ‘Fight for 15’ led to a lot of fast food workers losing their jobs or their hours, while franchises looked for ways to automate ordering and production. Wiping out the ridesharing industry will replace it with self-driving cars. And the unions will have to fight to keep self-driving cars off the road in every city.

But, unlike the push to unionize the gig economy out of existence, that will be a losing battle.

And yet the Democrats are less concerned with workers losing jobs than with them gaining income from sources outside their control. An unemployed worker is a potential recruit or client. A successful independent contractor doesn’t need anything from the plutocratic friends of the working class.

Democrats prefer a country with 20% unionized workers and 80% unemployed than a booming economy with 10% unionized and 90% non-union workers. That’s the European model and it’s why Baltimore, Detroit and South Bend, Buttigieg’s own failed city, are the way that they are.

Lefties are fine with a future in which self-driving cars roll past a growing Skid Row and Big Macs roll down an assembly line, as long as the people paid to hose the filth of the streets belong to a union.

That’s the model in San Francisco and New York City. They want it to be the model for America.

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