Uber Regs Invade Privacy, Reduce Flexibility

Uber Regs Invade Privacy, Reduce Flexibility

Seattle's city council is taking up a bill that would subject ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to new regulations.

Purportedly, legislators are pushing the measure to "ensure safe and reliable" transportation. However, the bill invades drivers' privacy and could force many of them into joining a union, which would likely upset the framework that has led so many individuals to become Uber drivers in the first place.

As far as public safety is concerned, it's not entirely clear what the problem with the status quo is supposed to be. Uber is already ahead of the game, with standards in place to ensure Uber rides are safe, without any need for union representation or government intervention. Uber vets all drivers for any criminal record at the county, state, and federal levels. It also reviews drivers' motor-vehicle records and makes sure all rides are commercially insured in case of an accident.

It is also not the case that Uber drivers are being unfairly treated; they seem very content with their current working conditions. An internal Uber study shows that 78 percent of drivers are satisfied with their work situation. In addition, 73 percent of drivers would prefer being their own boss, their current situation, rather than taking "a steady 9-to-5 job with some benefits and a set salary."

In contrast, a recent Gallup poll shows union workers are less satisfied with a variety of aspects of work when compared to non-union counterparts, including safety, flexibility, and job security.

The issue is not whether ride-sharing drivers should be able to unionize, but whether the process should be tilted in unions' favor. The bill would create an election process that circumvents secret-ballot elections and instead enables unions to become certified as workers' monopoly bargaining representative based on signed authorization cards.

This system, known as card-check, facilitates intimidation and harassment of employees by union organizers.

Since a vast majority of Uber drivers enjoy their experience and value the flexibility the ride-sharing app provides them, why is the Seattle government trying foist union representation on them? It is highly unlikely that a one-size-fits-all collective-bargaining agreement would allow them to retain the independence and flexibility they currently enjoy.

The bill is also troublesome for privacy. It would require companies like Uber to hand over all drivers' personal information — names, home and email addresses, and phone numbers — to any union representatives who requested it while seeking to represent drivers. Unions would gain access to all drivers' personal information before any drivers officially stated that they desired union representation. This would also enable union organizers to harass workers, both in person and via phone and email.

The fact that Uber drivers overwhelmingly enjoy their current work relationship has fallen on the deaf ears at the Seattle City Council. In October, the council's finance and culture committee unanimously approved the bill. As the legislation makes its way to the full council, the members should keep in mind that the economy is shifting away from traditional employee-employer relationships. More and more workers are taking advantage of the on-demand economy because of the freedom it brings. There is no reason to upset the beneficial work relationship of ride sharing companies just to benefit the narrow interests of labor unions.

Trey Kovacs is a policy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market public-policy group in Washington, D.C.

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