Uberization of America – it’s downhill for workers, say critics

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Doesn’t sound as warm and fuzzy as that other sobriquet — “the sharing economy” — used to describe the Uberization of America, does it? But that’s what critics say workers are increasingly becoming thanks to a business model that’s totally redefining what it means to be employed in a tech-enabled, service-driven, 21st-century economy.

Think about it: If you drive for an app-based, ride-hailing service like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar — or maybe do stuff like fix leaky faucets, say, by signing on with TaskRabbit to connect with buyers with long to-do lists -; odds are that app-enabled “gig,” as it’s called, doesn’t include all or some of the following:

* Health benefits

* Workman’s comp

* Social Security

* Overtime

* The right to unionize

“The ‘sharing economy’ is mostly spin,” software developer Jon Evans wrote in a column for TechCrunch. “It mostly consists of people who have excess disposable income hiring those who do not.”

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Uber was handed a huge defeat last September when U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco granted class-action status to a lawsuit by drivers that, according to the Wall Street Journal, “could have sweeping implications” for anyone following the same business model. The core issue is: Are those behind the wheel “independent contractors” (as Uber claims) or “employees” entitled to a wide range of costly benefits (as drivers claim)?

‘Independent contractors’

“It will allow thousands of Uber drivers to participate in this case (and) challenge their misclassifications as independent contractors, as well as to attempt to recover the tips that Uber advertised to customers are included in the fare, but are not in fact distributed to the drivers,” attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who’s also representing Lyft drivers in a separate case, told the press while vowing to try to expand the suit nationwide.

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Not boding well for Uber, which is planning to appeal the ruling: The California Labor Commission a few months earlier ruled that Uber driver Barbara Ann Berwick was, indeed, an employee in a claim involving expenses.

“We’ve always said that all providers of ground transportation should be held to the same standard,” said Gary Buffo, president of the non-profit National Limousine Association(Limo.org). “That applies to drivers’ benefits, too.”

And for those who think they’re immune to Uberization, don’t be so sure.

A Bloomberg columnist recounted the increased “buzz” around the idea of turning white-collar work, which traditionally commands higher paychecks, into less expensive services that can be summoned as easily as a town car.

“An Uber for legal advice seems like a pretty good idea,” she wrote. – NewsUsa.

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