Another wrong move by Uber

Trevor Gulock, Contributing Writer

Uber’s public appearance today is at an all-time low. If you Wikipedia search Uber right now, you will find 21 notes under the tab labeled “Criticism,’’ a shocking amount coming from such a new-born company. After a 2019 flop of a public offering — having the stock price drop by 8.8 percent almost instantaneously, constantly cheating regulation, and a management shakeup in 2017 after allegations of sexual misconduct — it is clear that Uber has a serious PR issue.

This PR issue expands to the fact that Uber has made it no secret that they are looking to squeeze out its drivers. From investing in driverless technology, not offering a guaranteed minimum wage, and having a classification as a mere middleman between drivers and customers, it is clear that their business model relies on taking advantage of it’s drivers. In a video made by Vox, a Youtube channel that attempts to “cut through the noise and help viewers understand what’s driving events in the headlines,” found that being an Uber driver in Arlington, Va. equated to drivers making about $12 an hour. A practically unlivable wage after the cost of gas, the cost of simply owning a car, and other costly expenses that come with being a driver for these companies.

However, California recently pushed out legislation mandating that more companies convert their contracted hires to employees. This was a chance for Uber to step in the right direction and offer more benefits and financial security to their drivers. Instead, they responded by offering freedom to drivers to set their own price per mile.

While more freedom and opportunity has offered drivers a chance to make more cash than compared to just a set rate, it can be a serious burden on these workers. Drivers now must analyze for themselves what price is appropriate, without any external guidance from the company. Kim Beaver, a driver for Uber, told NPR that if one chooses to set a higher fare that “it’s just going to be chaos and frustrating for people, you’ll be waiting an hour to two hours to God knows how long [for a customer].” Uber still matches all riders with the cheapest fare, and while drivers are able to increase their prices, they are also now able to decrease them.

Drivers now have the right to decrease their fares by up to 50 percent. From an economist standpoint, many will now no longer be able to afford to be Uber drivers, as wages now will most likely plummet. In an attempt to appease California legislation by offering their contractors more freedom, they essentially handed their drivers a pay cut.

California officials, however, are not buying it. While California’s legislature enacted this law in order to give drivers more freedoms and benefits, like sick days and other benefits, Uber responded by giving drivers more autonomy. Uber did this to strengthen their case that drivers are too independent to be considered employees. Francis J. Mootz III, professor of law at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Calif., told NPR that “Two or three years ago, if Uber and Lyft and other ride-share companies had really tried to restructure in a way to give workers true independence, true entrepreneurial opportunities, [the laws] might’ve been different.”

Uber has been caught off-base with what made them so great, an American company offering jobs to virtually everyone—a true embodiment of the American Dream. These drivers should not be required to have an economics degree to understand the ever-changing market of taxi-driving in order to simplify what their fares should be. Drivers have every right to earn and be compensated to the highest amount they possibly can. The tech-giant has made it clear they are looking to exploit lower-class and middle-class Americans, the prime demographic that makes up Uber drivers, not benefit them.

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