I could’ve done it in San Francisco or New York, but chose London instead to take my first Uber.
It was simply wonderful. After downloading the app and ordering a car, I found myself stepping in to a nice clean vehicle with a polite and helpful driver precisely four minutes later. The bill was substantially less than with a London black cab or even a minicab.
I became an Uber convert, grateful this model of the so-called sharing economy had escaped regulatory attempts in London.
But all’s not well within the Uber empire. It’s growing fast, recruiting clients and impressing people but its drivers in Massachusetts and California are fighting the company on a crucial point. They claim that Uber is wrong to classify them as independent contractors. Instead, they’re full-fledged employees. The lawsuit’s outcome will have tax implications – for the drivers. For Uber. And, as this OZY piece puts it, for “the entire sharing economy empire, from Homejoy housecleaners to Instacart grocery shoppers to BloomThat flower deliverers.”
Zev Eigen, labour law professor at Northwestern University, is quoted, dolefully predicting that the sharing economy system will be dealt a huge blow if the contract-worker business model is forcibly changed by the courts.
I don’t know about those mutinous Uber drivers in Massachusetts and California, but the ones I used in London say they’re happily freelance, handing over 20 per cent of their earnings to the company.