November 2, 2016
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The current BusinessWeek reports yet another example of the “innovative” thinking that has led the American labor movement to its present, sorry, state: company unionism. The International Association of Machinists has signed a five-year deal with Uber to operate a company union called the Independent Drivers Guild. The operation’s website claims it’s a joint project of “independent drivers” and the IAM which will represent drivers in (mandatory – drivers are forced to sign away their rights to sue, and Uber prohibits them from unionizing) arbitration hearings, sell them low-cost insurance plans and other “benefits” (much like the Union Privilege credit cards and other scams the AFL was peddling under Lane Kirkland), and lobby government and regulators on the drivers’ behalf.
Uber pays for the entire operation, chooses its “union” partners, selects the arbitrators (in consultation with its hired union), and dictates the issues around which the “union” will “advocate” for its “members.”
The IAM-sponsored Independent Drivers Guild has been granted “representation” of Uber drivers in New York City, and has pledged to lobby the state for lower taxes on Uber rides. Uber says that if they win, it will share the savings with drivers in the form of a IDG-managed benefits scheme. Earlier, the IDG fronted for Uber in fighting regulators’ efforts to impose a 12-hour cap on drivers’ shifts. They lost that fight in July, but implementation of the 12-hour day (presently Uber drivers can work shifts that never end) has been delayed.
Uber hatched this scheme to fend off bona fide labor organizing efforts. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance has been pursuing a class action lawsuit on behalf of Uber drivers seeking labor rights, while the Amalgamated Transit Union has gathered union authorization cards from thousands of Uber drivers, and has been pressing for a union representation election.
The Machinists are trying to expand the IDG into Pennsylvania, and Uber is seeking similar deals around the country. In California, the Teamsters are launching a similar company union scheme. “Unlike some other unions that have to continue putting up a fight just to look relevant to their members, we don’t necessarily have to,” Teamsters vice president Rome Aloise told BusinessWeek.