Friday, October 18, 2013

UberX Drivers Self-Organizing

I took an UberX ride in Boston this morning, and during the ride, the driver told me a wild story about self-organization of labor in our brave new peer economy. Everything I’m writing in this post is simply relayed from the driver, so I have not verified any truth to it beyond this one first-party source.  But, even with that caveat, I think it’s interesting.

The driver said that UberX recently changed their fee structure in such a way that adversely affects drivers. Uber brought all the drivers together to the Boston office to announce the change, in an open “townhall-style” meeting format.

Prior to this meeting, none of the UberX drivers knew who each other were, so they had no way to collectively organize and coordinate their actions/requests.  Occasionally they’d see each other around town and discover they were both using Uber, but since there is no centralized pool where cars are returned at the end of the shift, there’s no easy means of getting to know your fellow drivers.

This meeting announcing the fee change was the first time the drivers all got to meet each other in person.  So, one driver started passing around a paper to collect names and emails of everyone in the room. Then, this leader-driver created a FB group after the meeting ended which now has hundreds of members. There is now chatter in the FB group about how best to respond to the fee change (switch over to Lyft? organize a “strike”? collectively bargain to reverse the fee change?).

What does it even mean to “strike” in a world where “showing up to work” is simply opening an app whenever you want, in an entirely voluntary and self-directed manner?

I felt like the driver telling me the story was using tactics and principles to settle labor issues that were invented to negotiate with an offline, centralized, top-down employer. What are the equivalent tools for labor to collectively bargain in the peer economy?

Notes

  1. theblackstallion reblogged this from whatwhiteswillneverknow
  2. loscannbruthmar reblogged this from whatwhiteswillneverknow
  3. whatwhiteswillneverknow reblogged this from krysfree and added:
    Now this is new. How does one organize against this type of thing? I ought to look into this.
  4. krysfree reblogged this from superamit
  5. davidmcdougall reblogged this from thegongshow
  6. khuyi reblogged this from thegongshow
  7. jshapins reblogged this from thegongshow
  8. emilione reblogged this from superamit
  9. superamit reblogged this from thegongshow and added:
    This is so interesting. It seems like the optimal tactics are pretty much the same though, it’s just harder to organize....