Feb 20, 2017
Uber connects passengers wanting a ride with drivers, who pay the company a cut on each fare. France has 15,000 drivers working for Uber, most of whom drive their own cars.
This is presented by the politicians as a miraculous remedy for unemployment. Everyone can become their own boss. But, in fact, drivers must buy and fix their own car, and on top of that pay for their own Social Security and insurance. The company decides on the price of fares and the amount of the cut it takes. If a driver refuses to take a fare, he or she can be “taken off the list of drivers,” i.e. fired, with the click of a mouse by Uber management. If a business trip is cancelled or the weather is bad, the driver isn’t paid.
These supposedly independent Uber drivers are in reality chained to the company. They must work a certain number of hours of taking fares. After Uber’s commission, a driver would have to work 60 hours a week to make $1400 a month. Every year 30 percent of Uber drivers quit, but there is so much unemployment, the company is guaranteed a never-ending flow of new workers.
When Uber raised its own cut from 20 to 25% last December, the drivers organized demonstrations and blocked the road to the airport to demand better payment. They demanded to be legally counted as workers, not contractors, so they have some protection if there are accidents or they miss work due to sickness, plus paid days for vacations and a guaranteed salary.
Drivers like Uber’s, bicycle messengers, home health aides – all these workers, supposedly independent contractors, have simply changed the form of exploitation they work under. In the digital age, the self-employed work for Uber instead of trying to open a lunch cart, but the dilemma is just the same.
Whether people earn wages or work for themselves, in the public or private sector, workers’ power is the only check to the greed of the bosses.
In organizing against the attacks of their boss Uber, the drivers show that the nature of the capitalist economy is exploitation. The only antidote is the collective fight of workers.