Thursday, October 22, 2015

Open Letter to the Natural Resource Defense Council

Are you aware that the San Francisco branch of the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) is backing a plan by the venture capitalized corporations Uber and Lyft to put thousands of their private vehicles on that citys streets without an environmental impact study, regulatory oversight or emission controls?

         The new services called, Uber Pool and Lyft Line, designate the same vehicle  (owned by a private individual) to pick up at multiple locations in the same area and take the passengers to different places where the vehicles drop them off.

Uber and Lyft market this strategy by claiming,
  • Shared ride platforms reduce the number of private vehicles on the road …” decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants, particularly in urban areas.
This is a textbook example of Orwellian doublethink. They may or may not be motivating private citizens to take their cars off the road but they are certainly putting huge clusters of their own privately owned vehicles on the streets to do the job.

But it sounds good, yes? In fact, it sounded so good to Amanda Eaken, Deputy Director of the NRDCs Urban Solutions Program, that she wrote in her comments to the California Public Utilities Commission that despite the fact that,
  • “… these services are novel <and> have not yet been the subject of independent research to verify their broader social and environmental impacts, <and> While important research questions remain to be answered, this is not the time to make changes that would prevent ridesplitting (her word for Uber Pool & Lyft Line) from further evolving, particularly in light of Californias ambitious climate goals.
         Would Ms. Eaken and the NRDC take the same attitude if Exxon said that it was evolving a new, environmentally friendly method of fracking? Would the NRDC wait to see what the effects would be before calling for an inquiry? I think not.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Attorney Liss-Riordan Clarifies O'Conner vs Uber

Labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan, who is suing Uber on behalf of Uber drivers that want to be classified as employees, cleared up some confusion regarding the suit during a recent phone interview.

Some clarification was necessary. The case is complicated.

Uber Arbitration Clause

Liss-Riordan filed the case in 2013. On June 2, 2014 Uber changed the driver contract to add an arbitration clause that the drivers had to sign if they were to work for the company. This created two different statuses for drivers:

  1. Drivers who drove from 2009 to June 2014 could be included as the part of the class in a class action suit.
  2. Drivers who started or drove for Uber on (or after) June 2, 2014 could not.
However, the later drivers can still become part of the action by signing up. Liss-Riordan said that Uber wanted to try each case individually so she's going to do her best to keep them busy. She said that she's already had hundreds of drivers call her who wanted to be part of the suit and anticipates that she can easily sign up 2,000.

If you have driven for Uber any time since June 2014 and want to be part of the law suit you can find information on how to sign up at

The Class Action Suit

A court date hasn't been set yet but this is the suit that will decide whether or not Uber drivers will classified as employees.

Uber had argued that there was no such thing as a typical Uber driver so that there was no such thing as a class of drivers. The Uber attorney especially wanted full and part time drivers to be treated differently.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen "wasn't buying" the argument according Liss-Riordan. He ruled that there really wasn't any difference between full and part time drivers. If the drivers win the suit, they'll all be classified as employees.

Liss-Riordan is optimistic because she thinks that Judge Chen holds much the same view of the law that she does, and the California Labor Commission has already ruled that Uber drivers are employees.

While she expects Uber to delay the proceeding as long as possible, she thinks that she and the drivers will prevail in the end.