News & Commentary

July 10, 2015

Uber has gone on the offensive in its litigation over the status of its drivers.  Various news outlets report that the sharing-economy giant filed a motion to oppose class certification yesterday in a California district court.  According to the New York Times, the motion asserts that the three drivers who claimed that they were misclassified as independent contractors are not representative of Uber’s diverse work force.  The 52-page filing was accompanied by over 400 testimonials from Uber drivers across California endorsing the autonomy that the app offers them.  While there is little doubt that the 160,000 people who work for Uber are diverse, labor lawyers are taking issue with Uber’s argument.  As the Times piece points out, the success of the class certification depends on whether Uber treats its drivers in a uniformed way and not whether the drivers are uniform in their interests.

The sharing economy is making news on the East Coast, too.  Citi Bike workers in New York City have become the first bike-share workers in the nation to agree upon a union contract, reports the New York Times.  On Thursday the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and NYC Bike Share announced their agreement to raise wages by $1.50 an hour for the 200 bike mechanics who belong to the union.  The mechanics will now earn $18.41 an hour instead of $16.91.  The agreement also provides for additional wage raises over the course of the four-and-a-half year agreement.  The contract will come into effect next week pending approval by the union members, which sources expect to be forthcoming.  The success of the agreement might also spur similar ones in other metropolitan areas.  The union told the Times that they “hoped to use the agreements as a template in other cities like Boston and Chicago” where it also represents bike-share workers.

Picking up on last week’s news, Obama’s new regulations governing for-profit colleges have been in effect for over a week now. Known as the “gainful employment” rule, the regulations require for-profit institutions to monitor the job performance of its post-grads.  The rule also authorizes the Department of Education to withhold funding from programs that do not lead to sufficient employment, as measured by a debt-to-income ratio.  The regulations, implemented in response to complaints that for-profit colleges saddle students with debts that their degrees cannot pay back, have sent shock waves throughout the industry.  Politico reports that 1,400 programs enrolling 840,000 students are set to close in the coming months.  While industry leaders decry the regulations as unfair, White House officials emphasize that the intention is not to close institutions but to improve them.  Last year students took out $ 22 billion in loans and Pell Grants to pay for-profit institutions for schooling that might not lead to better educational outcomes.  The hope is that, now, with the regulations in place, for-profit institutions will take educational outcomes more seriously.

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