App Idea: app to replace Uber, support workers rights regardless of NLRB ruling

First, a quick background on recent news to contextualize this app idea. I’m just doing this off the top of my head so feel free to add specifics or corrections to any vague numbers I throw out here:

  • Uber the company is now valuated by some to be worth $80billion. Its owners are doing just fine. Here is a Linked In article with a link to Uber’s former head of operations, who appears to have moved to continue exploiting the crap out of workers in Bolsinaro’s Brazil.

  • A little over a week ago, uber drivers went on “strike” prompted by a recent paycut of $.080/mi to $0.60. the years since the company has started, the value of their actual labor that makes the app what it is has gone down farther. When the company launched in 2010, drivers received about 1.5x as much as taxi drivers for the private driving company.

  • Note: uber has replaced a lot of hard earned rights to a living wage that taxi drivers union fought to sustain. Many taxi drivers have been forced to join the ranks of insecure uber drivers in order to supplement their now diminished income to put food on the table. Taxi drivers union in NYC helped form uber driver’s union.

  • Most recent news = NLRB ruled that Uber drivers are contract workers, not employees, and therefore are not protected under labor law. NYT Article link

Second:

  • OUR news = YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PROTECTED BY THE NLRB TO FORM A UNION OR GO ON STRIKE. Unions and striking workers existed well before labor was assimilated into federal law. The megalomaniac capitalists who have been in office have it in their best interest to deregulate labor as much as possible. Because so much labor is now being carried out through the gig economy, this court case is a huge blow to workers. And we need to fight back. In a way, this precedent could effect every gig economy worker.

  • What does it mean to go on strike or form a picket line under platform capitalism? How can people organized internationally through an app’s platform sabotage capitalist platforms that pretend to offer a social good but actually act to circumvent minimum wage requirements and build multibillion dollar assets for themselves instead?

Solution:

An alternative Uber app that

  • is cleverly named to signal to users that by using this service instead of others, they are not crossing the picket line of striking drivers.
  • is run by developers and drivers, especially those who have already been a part of this Uber whirlwind and want to keep fighting for their rights to a living wage for their profession
  • is not necessarily a nonprofit by legal definition, but does aim to operate as an alternative to capitalist accumulation models of business: it does what workers AND fellow workers using driving services want, which is to offer a needed social service that does $billions better of a job at being a way for the drivers who work for the app to support themselves financially

and, for extra credit/ a sustainable future for workers:

  • is an actual political alternative and as such is allied with other tech and transportation union movements and aims to work in cooperation with them instead of in competition. We don’t need more cars on the road but we to do that we need taxi and driver services to help people not have to rely on their cars so much.

  • Any gig or full time workers of the app would want to support tech that drives down cost of living in the cities where they operate (so they can actually live there). This could be another app that’s part of a movement, not just an app, and could potentially use the recent news coverage and public support of democratic presidential candidates to garner mass public interest.

[about me and my possible contribution to this: Sadly, I’m not an app developer or a driver; I’m just obsessed with trying to figure out how to organize tech workers and the “gig economy” against [platform] capitalism and unhealthful precarity. I am a member of a union that organizes precarious gig workers who are largely made up of techies of some stripe or another.]

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@gkrishnaks, please describe the situation in India: how cab drivers organized and developed their own app.

For those who want to support drivers in the U.S.:

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Trichy is a city in southern part of India. The autorickshaw drivers in this city have organized themselves to form a union and pooled money, a fixed amount, from each driver to hire an I.T company to build an app for them - the union owns the “Meter Auto” app. The app is the digitized version of the distance/fare meter mounted on for-hire vehicles and it calculates the price based on distance using GPS.

Another news article I found is : https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/trichy/24-hour-helpline-launched-by-trichy-meter-auto-group/articleshow/67222058.cms

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Update on Uber and other companies in the so-called gig economy: a California bill could compel them to classify independent contractors as employees.

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