BROOKLYN, NY (Workers World Today) — Drivers from Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies went on a 24-hour strike on May 8 to protest their super-exploitation. Most of these drivers make less than minimum wage for the hours they work. By treating their drivers as independent contractors with no labor rights instead of as employees with rights under federal and state labor laws, the ride-sharing companies have the upper hand over the drivers.
I have seen this exploitation in the package shipping industry where I worked for two decades at UPS. Our competitor, FedEx, treated their package drivers as independent contractors until they lost lawsuits from their drivers in recent years for back wages, costing FedEx over $450 billion. Similar lawsuits could be one avenue the drivers of these ride-sharing companies might pursue in to realize their Drivers’ Bill of Rights.
But I think a better solution is one we can enact in our cities right now: socialize the ride-sharing companies by enacting municipal laws that require ride-sharing companies to be worker cooperatives that are collectively-owned by their drivers. The workers already own most of the capital in the business: their vehicles and their auto insurance. The worker co-op would then rent the software from Uber, Lyft, or another company, but set their own terms of work in line with the Driver Bill of Rights. For more discussion of this idea, see How to Socialize Uber.
And if Uber, Lyft, and the other few ride-sharing companies use their shared monopoly position to charge too much rent for the software, socializing the software by developing a public version would be in order.
Howie Hawkins is a recently retired Teamster in Syracuse and a former Green Party candidate for Governor of New York in 2018.