by: Natasha Chen Updated:
SEATTLE - Almost 500 UberX and UberBlack drivers will meet on May 18 to form an association, after they said some of them have been unfairly treated by the ride-share company.
“Hopefully we'll get some power out of this number, say to take different actions such as strike or work stoppage,” said Daniel Ajema, an UberBlack driver.
Uber drivers are independent contractors rather than employees of the company, so they are not protected by labor laws.
Even though they cannot participate in collective bargaining, Ajema said, “We still see there are outlets to address our issues.”
The drivers met in April to discuss the possibility of organizing. Some of them complained they were deactivated by the company when their ratings dropped slightly, and some felt their deactivation was in retaliation for their support of the city of Seattle’s attempt to cap the number of ride-share cars on the road.
Others talked about their investment of thousands of dollars in Uber-approved cars and payments they would be stuck with if they were suddenly terminated with no recourse for appeal.
A tip is included in the riders’ fares. But drivers said since Uber takes a cut of the total fare, they feel their tips are also reduced.
KIRO 7 asked Uber customers what they would do if drivers suddenly parked their cars in protest.
“There's enough competitive services that it wouldn't really affect me personally,” said Michael Cooney.
Another customer said he supports the idea of an association, especially if it promotes better navigation training for drivers.
“I think if the association is designed both to protect customers and drivers, it can only be a good thing,” said Kevin Hanes.
KIRO 7 asked Uber Seattle about the drivers’ plans to organize. In response, Uber Seattle’s general manager, Brooke Steger, sent the following statement:
“Uber is a technology platform and we partner with thousands of small businesses in the Puget Sound area. Owners of these small businesses are free to exercise their rights under federal and local law - they are absolutely free to meet with each other and to provide Uber with feedback about their partnership. In fact, we encourage this feedback; we hold weekly coffees that all partners are invited to, offer support via email and text message 7 days a week, have open office hours three days per week, and also have an anonymous feedback form.
A partner that is a safe driver, with a clean criminal and driving record, who provides good customer service and keeps their business in order, is at no risk of Uber's partnership ending. Safety and service are Uber's top priorities. Partners receive multiple communications each week outlining rider complaints and concerns. If a partner shows a continued pattern of not meeting rider needs this may result in Uber ending the partnership. We also run yearly criminal background and driving record checks to ensure we are only partnering with the best and safest drivers. It is also a requirement that partners keep required documents up to date such as limo certificates, vehicle registration and insurance, should they chose to not maintain the proper documents this also may result in a temporary or permanent deactivation from the Uber system. These measures are all in the best interest of Seattleites and public safety.
Should a driver not pose a safety risk, but simply lack the professional experience required to meet riders' needs, then there is a reapplication process available to those partners. Additionally, there is and has always been an appeal process for partners whose partnership has been ended.”