NLRB Makes It More Difficult for Uber Drivers to Unionize

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. May 15, 2019

​Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel said in a memorandum issued May 14, making unionization harder for drivers. Uber's labor costs probably would rise 20 percent to 30 percent if courts treated drivers as employees, industry experts say. We've rounded up articles from SHRM Online and other trusted news sources on ride-hailing companies and other gig workers.

Drivers Complain About Low Pay

Uber lost approximately $2 billion last year while its competitor Lyft lost nearly $1 billion. Investors have suggested the companies might need to cut their labor costs to become profitable. But drivers often protest that their pay is too low. The general counsel's memo follows a Labor Department opinion last month that workers at an unnamed company similar to Uber were contractors rather than employees. The memo will result in the dismissal of three formal accusations across the country that Uber has violated federal labor law. "Drivers across the globe are organizing and demanding rights," said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, responding to the memo. "The road may be long and difficult, but one way or another Uber will have to answer to its workers."

(The New York Times)

Gig Drivers Recently Went on Strike

Just before Uber's debut as a publicly traded company on May 10, its drivers and Lyft drivers went on strike on May 8, protesting low pay and arbitrary terminations. Drivers' groups in various cities organized the strikes. The drivers want a 10-percent cap on the companies' share of each fare, an hourly minimum wage and compensation for time spent traveling to pick up a rider.

(Ars Technica)

Companies Can Offer Gig Workers Benefits

The proportion of gig employees—independent workers who contract for short-term assignments—is growing, and so is competition for their services. To maintain a healthy relationship with the best of them, employers need to offer more than good pay. But that presents a challenge: How do you offer gig workers benefits while avoiding traps that could lead to their being classified as full-time employees? 

(SHRM Online)

Broadened Definition of Independent Contractor

The NLRB earlier this year broadened the definition of who is considered an independent contractor, reducing the number of individuals who may unionize or bring unfair labor practice charges. The board has returned to a test that takes into account a variety of factors, including the relationship the company and individual think they created and how much control the company has over the person's work. But HR professionals need to keep in mind that there are other tests for independent contractor status under other laws, such as California's wages orders, that may produce different results.

(SHRM Online)



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