Union deal with Uber betrays drivers

From the July-August 2016 issue of News & Letters

New York—Uber car service drivers in New York City have begun to mobilize against exploitation by their management. (See “Fighting Uber Pay Cuts March-April 2016 N&L.) There was even talk of organizing a union. However, since those first rallies, a local New York union has recently sold out the Uber drivers.

Union bureaucrats from a regional branch of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) agreed to a sweetheart deal with a multi-year ban on both strikes and union organizing. They sold out the workers’ rights in return for a vague agreement to have an “association” for “consultations” on a regular basis between the drivers and management.

These consultations amount to nothing more than a listening session, with no enforcement mechanism for the complaints of drivers. Now, even if Uber drivers decide to organize a union to fight for their rights, they are forbidden from doing so. They are even banned from striking. 

The five-year deal that IAM bureaucrats agreed to allows only for monthly meetings with drivers and Uber management. Guild members will not be able to bargain with Uber management about fare rates, benefits or protections. The union is prohibited from organizing workers, must encourage them not to strike, and must fight efforts to have drivers recognized as employees.

Fortunately this sellout is not without its critics. One group, the Uber Drivers Network (UDN), opposed the sellout, stating that the most important issues to drivers, price cuts and commissions, were not being addressed by the new accord. UDN has over 5,000 members and is encouraging drivers to sign union cards with the Amalgamated Transit Union. More than 5,000 have already signed. 

The leaders of the UDN noted that a guild is no substitute for a union, declaring that the IAM deal sounded “bogus.”

—Natalia Spiegel

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