Gig News — January 27, 2016


Published January 27th, 2016 - 01.27.166


This post is part of an ongoing series on labor and the gig economy.

Uber may soon increase the control it has over its drivers.  The Guardian reports that, in a pilot program, Uber is using smartphone sensors to track whether drivers accelerate and break too quickly.  The company also said it is considering other experiments to influence driver and passenger behavior.

The federal government will soon begin tracking the number of workers participating in the gig economy.  According to Forbes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will revive the Contingent Worker Suppement in 2017.  The data will help the government measure the size and impact of the gig economy.  The announcement by Labor Secretary Tom Perez comes after Mark Warner authored a letter questioning the Labor Department’s ability to measure the gig economy, as reported by CBS News.

Uber’s buisness partners are taking its worker classification practices seriously.  Per Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley identified Uber’s practice of classifying drivers as independent contractors as one of the company’s greatest risk factors impacting its valuation.  Morgan Stanley cited the significant labor costs incurred by Uber defending classification suits, and noted that a determination that drivers must be classified as employees could increase costs sufficient to “have a material adverse effect on its ability to operate its business.”

In fact, lawsuits against Uber continue to move forward.  According to The National Law Journal, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has scheduled a hearing for today to consider a move by a New York attorney to coordinate a dozen classification suits against Uber in a multidistrict litigation.  Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney representing workers in the notable O’Connor suit set for a jury trial next year in California, filed a motion opposing coordination of her case.  Meanwhile, The Recorder notes that Liss-Riordan recently filed a suit on behalf of  78 drivers excluded from the O’Connor class action.

Uber has settled at least one dispute with a driver.  Business Insider reports that Uber reached a settlement with a driver who filed a complaint with the California Labor Commission for commissions earned, unauthorized deductions and reimbsable expenses totalling $15,018.30.  As part of the settlement, Uber paid the full amount claimed but did not admit wrongdoing.

In commentary, Max Rivlin-Nader writes in The New Republic that the gig economy could prove to be ripe for organized labor.  Also, recently on OnLabor, Harold covered a new classification suit by Uber driver in Philadelphia, Sophie noted Uber’s investment in research into self-driving costs, and Abbey highlighted a story on the increasing number of senior citizen Uber drivers.

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