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  • NY Drivers Sue Uber Over Wage Theft And Mis-Classification
    Posted On: Jun 06, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, June 7, 2016

    Ten drivers working for Rideshare giant Uber, along with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, have filed a federal class action suit against Uber for misclassification of drivers as independent contractors.  As independent contractors, the workers are denied a number of basic labor protections including minimum wage and overtime pay.  The lawsuit also alleges that this misclassification has resulted in wage theft estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars from over 30,000 New York City Uber drivers.  Bhairavi (bay-ra-vee) Desai is Executive Director of the Alliance:

    [Bhairavi Desai]: “This for a company that’s evaluated at over sixty billion dollars, yet they continue to nickel and dime working people.”

    The Uber Drivers have been required to sign an arbitration clause in their contracts preventing them from being able to address grievances in the courts, instead requiring complaints to be addressed through an arbitrator.  Each worker would be expected to share the nearly fifteen thousand dollar cost of the arbitrator selected by the company.  Desai describes the arbitration clause as “absolutely unconscionable”, and while 8 of the 10 plaintiffs have been able to opt out of the arbitration clause as a result of a case in California, the drivers have simultaneously filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board:

    [Bhairavi Desai]: “For all the members of the class who did not opt out, there needs to be equal protection for all drivers across the board.  We’re asking the NLRB for injunctive relief, to enjoin the arbitration clause.  We want the NLRB to step in and recognize that the arbitration is a real violation of workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.”

    Desai says the so-called “gig economy”, exemplified by Uber andbased on workers contracting with companies for short term jobs, is a threat to the livelihood of all working people:

    [Bhairavi Desai]: “We need to stop this, because this is the mantra of the gig economy…it’s a real gutting of the most basic labor protections.  Uber is leading the charge, and we as the drivers and as the union, we have a responsibility to fight back.  Where Uber operates a Transportation Network Company Model, they’ve completely deprofessionalized the work, turned a full-time profession into temporary gig work, and displaced hundreds of thousands of full-time taxi drivers, majority of them people of color and immigrants.  This is such an assault on low-wage workers, on immigrant workers and on workers that are the most vulnerable.  And we as a labor movement as a whole, if we don’t step up, this is going to seep into so many other sectors.  So, this really is a fight for the entire working class.”

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