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Uber lets New York City drivers organize, with limits

It's not a union, but it gives ridesharing workers more of a voice.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 10, 2016
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Although Uber drivers have been organizing for a while, getting Uber to play along with those organizations has been difficult when it doesn't even want to treat workers as full-fledged employees. At last, though, there's some progress. Uber has partnered with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to create the Independent Drivers Guild, the first labor group the ridesharing company officially recognizes. The Guild gives New York City's Uber drivers a collective voice in some issues, particularly when Uber kicks them out. It'll also reduce rates on everything from insurance to legal services.

This victory comes at a steep cost. The Guild can't actually unionize drivers (or have them treated as employees) for the next 5 years. That takes important labor issues off the table, including pay and workers' compensation. Moreover, the Guild has agreed to help push for state law changes that would lower taxes on hired rides and shrink Uber's expenses.

All the same, it's a big win for drivers that rarely have much recourse outside of lawsuits or jumping ship to work for rivals like Lyft. They'll get to communicate with Uber's management more often, and the firm says that savings from the reduced taxes would go into a benefits fund. While it's far from a perfect deal, it could make all the difference for regular drivers who have to fret over time off and lost wages.

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