As Uber has poured tens of millions of dollars into a California ballot measure to avoid classifying its drivers as employees, one engineer from inside the ride-hailing company spoke out against this campaign on Tuesday. In an op-ed published by TechCrunch, Kurt Nelson said Uber doesn’t have drivers’ interests in mind.…
As Uber has poured tens of millions of dollars into a California ballot measure to avoid classifying its drivers as employees, one engineer from inside the ride-hailing company spoke out against this campaign on Tuesday. In an op-ed in TechCrunch, Kurt Nelson said that Uber doesn’t have drivers’ interests in mind.
“Uber works because it’s cheap and it’s quick,” Nelson wrote. “But it’s become clear to me that this is only possible because countless drivers are spending their personal time sitting in their cars, waiting to pick up a ride, completely unpaid. Workers are subsidizing the product with their free labor.”
Nelson is one of only a handful of gig economy company employees to speak out against Proposition 22. It’s been historically rare to see tech workers criticize their employers’ positions. But that’s starting to change. Google employeesin 2018 over the company’s handling of sexual harassment allegations and Facebook employees in June after the company refused to take down inflammatory posts by President Donald Trump.
Nelson said he’s been a software engineer at Uber for two years writing code for the company’s Android app. But when he was in college, he drove for the ride-hailing company Lyft. He said that experience gave him insight into what it’s like to be a driver and how difficult it can be when workers don’t have benefits.
Uber, Lyft and other gig economy companies currently classify their drivers as independent contractors, which means the workers pay for their own expenses, such as gas, car maintenance and insurance. Drivers also don’t have labor benefits
I’ve been a software engineer at Uber for two years, and I’ve also been a ride-hail driver. I regularly drove for Lyft in college, and while my day job involves writing code for the Uber Android app, I still make deliveries for app-based companies on my bike to understand the state of the gig economy.
These experiences have made me realize a crucial factor in the gig economy: Uber works because it’s cheap and it’s quick. The instant gratification when we book a ride and a car shows up only minutes later gives us a sense of control. It’s the most convenient thing in the world to go to your friend’s house, the grocery store or the airport at the click of a button.
But it’s become clear to me that this is only possible because countless drivers are spending their personal time sitting in their cars, waiting to pick up a ride, completely unpaid. Workers are subsidizing the product with their free labor.
I’ve decided to speak out against my employer because I know what it’s like to work with no benefits. Before joining Uber, I worked a range of low-wage jobs from customer service at Disneyland to delivering pizza with no benefits. Uber is one of several large companies bankrolling California’s Proposition 22. They’ve now contributed $47.5 million dollars to the campaign. At work, management tells us that passing Prop 22 is for the best because it is critical for the company’s bottom line. Yet, a corporation’s bottom line will not and should not influence my vote.
Uber claims Prop 22 would be good for drivers, but that depends on Uber the company treating drivers better. I know from my experience working as an Uber engineer there is a slim chance of that happening. At the beginning of
The battle over labor standards in California has been fierce over the last year. The union-conceived AB5 legislation was a disaster, as it tried to treat many independent businesspeople as employees. But the main targets were always the rideshare companies Uber
Many thousands of drivers provide transportation to consumers who flock to the phone apps for a ride. The companies call themselves “platforms,” a term widely taken up by the tech press and investors through effective PR, because it evokes a marketplace where buyers and sellers do business. No direct involvement—just a cut of the transaction.
Direct involvement would mean that an Uber or Lyft was providing the ride or DoorDash was arranging the delivery. Drivers would then be like
SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies, are all the rage right now, and people are emerging from all corners to raise them.
Among the latest entrants — and someone who might be of interest to Silicon Valley watchers — is Emil Michael, a former Uber executive and top lieutenant to former CEO Travis Kalanick. Earlier today, Micheal registered plans with the SEC to raise $250 million in an IPO for a blank-check company that will broadly acquire a company in the tech sector.
IPO Edge had reported earlier today that the SPAC might be in the works.
The filing lists as special advisors Alphabet’s former executive chairman Eric Schmidt, and Betsy Atkins, a founder of Ascend Communications and investor who has served on so many boards that last year she wrote a book about it. Indeed, among her other roles currently, she’s on the boards of Volvo, Wynn Resorts, and Oyo Hotels.
Michael was as senior vice president of field operations at Tellme Networks, then later served as COO of the startup Klout before landing at Uber, where he was a senior vice president for business for nearly four years.
He gained prominence in the role, but also some disrepute after he publicly made comments about hiring opposition researchers to quite journalists critical of the company and following a later report that he had attended an “escort bar” in Seoul with other Uber executives, including Kalanick. Indeed, when he left the company in 2017, Uber declined to say if he left of his own accord.
Despite — or perhaps even because of — his trajectory at Uber, Michael was reportedly vetted at one point for the position of Secretary of Transportation after Donald Trump was elected president. Now, he apparently sees a way to jump back into tech by using