New NYC-Based Association for Uber Drivers Has Company’s Backing

Uber drivers still aren't treated as full employees under the law, but the company is making an effort to formally support a new association for drivers in the Big Apple. It's the second such NYC-based group announced in the last month, but only the Independent Drivers Guild has Uber's direct support.

In a recent Gothamist profile of New York City-based Amalgamated Local Livery Drivers in Solidarity (ALLES), an anonymous Uber driver noted that efforts to organize drivers were happening at a hectic pace.

“It’ll make your head spin quick,” the driver told the website. “Everybody is trying to organize but nobody is really supporting anything. There are so many organizations.”

Almost as if to prove the point, a second Uber-related association launched this week in NYC, and this one is moving forward with the ride-sharing company’s blessing—the first time that’s happened since Uber launched.

The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) represents an initiative to ensure that drivers are able to organize, while getting around their inability to unionize due to their status as independent contractors. The guild is supported by an actual union, a regional branch of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), and came about thanks to a five-year agreement between Uber and the union, according to The New York Times.

“We’re happy to announce that we’ve successfully come to agreement with Uber to represent the 35,000 drivers using Uber in New York City to enhance their earning ability and benefits,” IAMAW District 15 General Counsel James Conigliaro Jr. told the Times.

Conigliaro founded IDG, which will meet with local management each month to discuss worker concerns. It will also help create an appeals process for drivers who have had their app privileges suspended. One thing the group won’t offer, however, is the kind of collective bargaining that full employees traditionally have access to.

David Plouffe, the former White House official who serves as Uber’s chief adviser, told the Times that the opportunity to clear the air on issues such as fare cuts was a good thing.

“Communication is important,” Plouffe told the newspaper. “On price cuts, we haven’t always had the best forum to discuss and share data — how price cuts work, what we see afterward.”

Uber gets some benefits from this, too, including an ally on a key issue for the company: legislation at the state level that would give hired vehicles the same treatment as taxis. As part of the agreement, IAMAW will support the legislation.

So what does ALLES think of all this? As it turns out, the group is interested in collaborating with the new organization. Kevin Lynch, who helped organize ALLES, told Gothamist he sees IDG’s launch as a net positive for drivers.

“There is a strength when you bring thousands of people together,” Lynch told the website. “In the absence of employee status … Uber has agreed to negotiate.”

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. (Bret Hartman/TED/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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