While I think this new situation might be a weak case to object to Uber on, I would still argue that they broke a union-run work stoppage in order to perform the work of that union. This would be enough to consider them scabs. Now, we can debate if it was a strike or not and if Uber is technically doing the same jobs as NYC cabs. I’d argue that yes it was a strike (it had all the hallmarks and statements of a strike) and that Uber is doing the same job as NYC cabs (almost all their NYC advertising has placed them as adversarial to the cabbie marketplace). We can argue about the timing.
But here’s the thing. Let’s say that all of those arguments are weak arguments, some may easily be argued against, even knocked down. One thing is clear, America is dividing up under Trump into those who would stand for the individual legal rights of not only American citizens, but also humans. Uber’s CEO has stated he intends to cooperate with Trump. Sure, he’s the president, we could give this one a pass. But Uber has also made millions specifically attempting to disrupt true labor organization and unionization, especially in New York City. A lot of leeway was given when things looked safe, when we were still seeing the asking for forgiveness instead of permission phase. But things aren’t safe for low-income urbanites who are mostly of foreign descent anymore, and this was one time when asking for forgiveness and not permission was disruptive of one of the things that unions are specifically built for: defending the rights of their members. There are plenty of things that one could argue Uber has done that is unacceptable, but of all of them, this is the least acceptable.
It is rapidly becoming clear that labor needs every instrument to defend itself. And at the end of the day Uber is not pro-union, it is anti-union. It is perhaps the strongest private corporate voice to be anti-union. That’s why Lyft’s ACLU mattered more than helping individual drivers, because Uber’s action so perfectly reflects Uber’s mentality – free market and individual capital at all costs, take your money and use it to defend your own workers, your own people, on an individual level that does nothing to challenge the overall problem. But that mentality is what has gotten us here. And that mentality sabotages what is undoubtedly one of the most important tools to keep safe the people who drive yellow cabs, black cars and–yes, even–Ubers: organized labor.
For many of us, this is not about one mistake on one night of Uber’s long corporate life; it’s about a pattern of behavior we can no longer afford to tolerate because–for some of our fellow humans–deportation could be a matter of life or death.
I have been having long nuanced conversations with plenty of people on the left about Uber for a long time. I don’t think the deleteUber movement is driven out of blind reaction to one tweet. This is the end of a long period of conversation about the problems of Uber. The same problems which caused riots in France, that caused a banning in numerous US cities, that cause significant legal uproar in others. The same problems that bring Uber to task over sexual assault, the same problems that point to Uber as pushing and holding up a sharing economy that robs government or people from mutual support and assistance. These criticisms of Uber aren’t new. It isn’t new that Uber is a company whose every component pushes individualism and working without a care or support of the organism of society in which it thrives. The way Uber reacted to criticism in this case made it even clearer that this was the case and will continue to be.
What is new is that most of us can no longer afford a company which would rather we stand alone than together.