The National Labor Relations Board dealt a blow to rideshare drivers’ demands for fair treatment yesterday, with the release of an advisory memo that saying that Uber drivers aren’t “employees” for the purposes of federal labor laws.
This means that the federal agency’s general counsel will take the position that workers for companies like Uber and Lyft cannot legally seek federal protections for workplace organizing activities, like trying to form or join a union.
“Uber has stripped its drivers of employee rights like minimum wage and unemployment protections, pushing millions of workers into poverty and despair,” New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said in a statement “But drivers across the globe are organizing and demanding rights. The road may be long and difficult, but one way or another Uber will have to answer to its workers.”
The NYTWA is one of the unions trying to organize rideshare drivers, who Uber and Lyft insist are independent contractors, rather than employees entitled to fair wages and job security. Supported by local drivers’ unions, and the Industrial Workers of the World, drivers for both companies went on strike to demand collective bargaining rights in several American cities on march 25 and May 8 this year
“NLRB General Counsel opinions are political football, reflecting the will of the current administration. An opinion that negates workers’ rights to collective bargaining, organizing protections, and democratic unions is not shocking from this anti-worker administration,” Desai said. “We will push for more state-level legislation like the ABC-test employee status bill in California to help protect us from an anti-worker president. But we can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere.”
“The labor movement now has a choice to make about whether to create yellow dog company unions, taking money from the boss and allowing the company to dictate how we organize, or to stand strong and support militant worker-led organizing. Workers don’t need permission to organize, and real unionists don’t need the NLRB to tell them company-dominated unions are an affront to workers.”