Uber may have just paid out $100 million to settle with some disgruntled drivers in California and Massachusetts, but as the transportation giant knows all too well, it’s not over yet. Independent contractors who drive for Uber (because drivers still haven’t been classified as employees) in California have now partnered with labor union Teamsters, expanding the current relationship from Seattle along more of the west coast. On Friday, Teamsters noted that it had received “overwhelming outreach” from Uber drivers in search of representation, benefits, and ultimately, a stand for themselves.
“We welcome any Uber drivers seeking to improve their working conditions,” said Rome Aloise, president of Teamsters Joint Council 7, in a statement. “By coming together, the Teamsters will help these drivers have a stronger voice and improve standards for rideshare drivers in California.”
Teamsters is quite the force in the tech automotive industry, already attracting drivers from companies like Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, Google, and eBay, who are tasked with shuttling Silicon Valley employees to and from their offices. The union claims to have “negotiated strong contracts for the drivers, including good wages, benefits, and workplace protections,” all of which clearly holds strong appeal for the as-of-yet unrepresented Uber drivers.
“We think we’re the best vehicle for erecting this association concept, given our size and our diversity as a union,” Aloise added. While Uber says that this new move from its California contingency doesn’t affect the recent settlement, it’s yet another sign of the growing dissatisfaction with the gig economy.
It’s still unclear as to how many Uber contractors are actually interested in joining a union, though the company’s recent settlement affects around 385,000 drivers. And as far as what a Teamsters-Uber driver partnership would look like, Aloise isn’t quite sure either. As USA Today reports, interested parties would probably not join the union itself, but rather become part of an association (which may be funded, but not controlled, by Uber).
“As a transportation union, the Teamsters have a long history of dealing with drivers who are classified as independent contractors,” Aloise said. “Whether it’s a voice at work, better benefits, or advocacy, this association will raise standards for Uber drivers.”
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