Uber is never going to stop abusing its drivers
There's a post on Medium that's a) going viral and b) is incredibly infuriating. How’s that for an unshocking lede?
The post, written by former Uber driver Dave Craige, revealed that Uber is now paying a pathetic 30 cents a mile to drivers in Detroit. By comparison, Craige points out that cab drivers in New York were paid a dollar a mile… in 1970.
We can all agree that’s outrageous. What apparently Craige and I disagree on is the solution. In his long, long post, Craige repeatedly begs Uber to explain when they’re going to stop treating their drivers like crap. He asks “Where are you [sic] standards for your drivers? Where will you set the line?”, he pleads “Where the hell is the bottom?”.
Craige, who has registered the URL "Not Cool Uber" is hoping for a dialogue with the company: One that will make them understand how badly it is treating drivers, and how much those drivers are suffering.
Craige seems like a nice, thoughtful guy. And perhaps that's why the answer doesn't seem to have occurred to him: Uber knows exactly how badly it is treating drivers. And there is no bottom. Or at least no bottom that involves drivers. 30 cents today will become 15 cents later, and down and down until self driving cars finally make drivers obsolete.
Uber has made no secret about this. The company has constantly boasted that the more drivers it signs up, the more it will push down wages. CEO Travis Kalanick has said on multiple stages that he longs for the days he can get rid of drivers completely.
Craige includes in the post this tweet from another Uber driver, mother of two Mary Elliott .
To which, the only logical answer is yes. You should find other work.
If you’re an Uber driver unhappy with a future in which Uber will pay you less and less for doing more and more, there’s only one sensible course of action. Quit. If there is another job avalable to you, take it. The company has made clear it hates its drivers, it hates paying them and it is trying to do everything to reduce those payments to absolutely zero.
What's strange reading the post, and the various tweets from Uber drivers responding to it, is how drivers seem to believe that their voice is in any way important to the company. Or that they have any ability whatsoever to change company policy. Part of this is down to the success of Uber in convincing drivers that they are "partners."
The truth is Uber is having a good old laugh at drivers' expense when it tells them "entrepreneurs" or even "independent contractors." Execs can barely wipe the smirks off their faces when they talk about creating "economic opportunities" for their "driver partners." An entrepreneur would have choice over what he charges for his or her services. An independent contractor or partner would be consulted before his employer or partner completely changes his compensation, or would have a contract preventing that employer from doing so.
And, given Uber drivers in Detroit are now earning considerably less than minimum wage, Uber drivers sure as shit aren’t employees.
So what are they? Indentured servants? Slaves with expenses?
Maybe something else.
The company's response to Elliott makes Uber’s attitude towards drivers even more clear:
@maryellenmemoir Price changes increase the # of requests. With more requests, you’ll spend more time online earning and less time waiting.— Uber Michigan (@Uber_MI) January 11, 2016
In other words, we’re doing this for your benefit. Because we love you.
It’s frightening how the way Uber talks to its drivers resembles an abusive relationship. And it’s sad how much the drivers’ responses sound like those of some abuse victims.
All the way through Craige post, we see him trying to persuade Uber to change its ways. Begging, pleading, trying to rationalize why the company behaves so horribly and callously towards the people who have done everything it has asked of them. The answer of course being nothing. You've done nothing wrong. It’s not you, it’s them.
The self-blaming reaches its most depressive low when Craige feels the need to include a paragraph about how Travis is probably just misunderstood. Craige runs a website called "not cool Uber," he has been battered and beaten by Uber's policies, and knows other are too, but still he can't bring himself to actually blame the person who sets the company’s policies towards drivers and who personally has vowed to wipe them out…
What do you think of the Uber CEO Travis?
I don’t mind him. I actually met him in Denver a few years back. I bought him a drink and talked about the story of how he moved his team to Thailand for a previous company.
I do hope he takes a good look at this Detroit issue though.
When Sarah Lacy asked Craige on Twitter why on earth he would give Kalanick a pass for his own policies, Craige insisted he wasn't afraid to call the CEO out personally. To prove the point, he tweeted a "not cool" message directly to @travisk. Then, an hour or so later, he deleted it, telling Sarah he had thought better of it.
Amazing. And amazingly sad.
Craige says he's now moved over to Lyft, in large part because they allow passengers to tip drivers directly. But still he can't let go of his past relationship with Uber. Can't shake the feeling that this time with this post he might be able to make the company see sense.
It won't, and they won't. Also, as I wrote yesterday, Lyft stubbornly refuses to promote itself as a non-abusive alternative. Won’t say a single thing publicly against their big rival’s abuse of drivers. And of course it has now taken an ass-load of money from GM to collaborate on a self-driving car programme. Right now, there's no reason to believe that a career at Lyft is any more secure than a career with any ridesharing company.
If you drive for Uber, and you have any possible alternative career path, you should probably get out of the ridesharing business altogether.